Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2024

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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BLUEGOLDONLINE.COM JANUARY 2024 47 MEN'S BASKETBALL On the other end, Marquette forced its way to the basket and dominated in the paint— particularly senior forward Oso Ighodaro, who bullied the young Irish forwards and wound up with 20 points. "I talked about it at halftime, they're one of the best teams in the country at getting the ball to the rim and scoring in the paint, and everything else," said Shrewsberry, who was not happy with Notre Dame's defensive effort in the first half. "They got there freely. Willingly." Perhaps most importantly, Smart built a team as good as the 2023 Golden Eagles with the same players he had in Year 1. Marquette's core — guards Kam Jones and Tyler Kolek, as well as for- wards David Joplin and Ighodaro — is in its third year of playing together. Kolek was a little-known transfer from George Mason who became the Big East MVP last year. Jones and Ig- hodaro were four-stars, but they were ranked just outside the top 100. Joplin was a top-100 recruit, but not by much. Smart kept them together, and any bas- ketball coach will tell you how much of an advantage that is. "Continuity really matters," Shrews- berry said. "The maturity that they play with. Tyler Kolek and how he runs a team [at point guard], how he gets everybody settled and how he gets everybody in- volved, that just comes with maturity." Could that be the Irish in three years? The Irish have their long-term point guard in Burton. While his matchup with Ighodaro showed that freshman forward Carey Booth has a ways to go before he can be an impact player against high- major teams, he has the traits and he's shown flashes of potential stardom, too. Braeden Shrewsberry, Micah's son, will get better with experience and he could be a lethal shooter when he does. The process will be longer and more difficult for Shrewsberry than it was for Smart, but Shrewsberry told his players after the game that if they stick with it, there's no reason Notre Dame can't be- come a program like Marquette. "This could be us, very easily," Shrews- berry said. "Very easily. This could be us in three years if we stick with it, if we play the right way. If we play with the same ef- fort that they play with, this could be us. But who knows, nowadays." ✦ Coach's Confidence Helped Tae Davis Find Role At Notre Dame Less than three minutes into Notre Dame's matchup with Western Michigan Dec. 5, Tae Davis started to attack. The sophomore forward received a pass on the left wing and made a quick decision. He put the ball on the floor, split two Bronco defenders, went up through contact and finished the layup with a right- handed finger roll on the left side of the rim. Davis wound up with a career-best 19 points, seven days after he set his previous career high at 15. He posted a double-double for the second straight game with 10 rebounds. The Seton Hall transfer's minutes and confidence are growing as a result. "I think just [Notre Dame head] coach [Micah Shrewsberry] giving me the opportunity to and believ- ing in me, and my teammates believing in me as well," Davis said when asked what allowed him to blossom over that three-game stretch. "Just trying to play hard. That's our motto, just to play hard for each other." Shrewsberry has believed in him for a long time. When he was an assistant at Purdue from 2019-21, he became familiar with Davis as early as when he was a freshman at Indianapolis Warren Central. When Shrewsberry went to Penn State, he tried to recruit Davis — then a 6-foot-6 guard — there, too. Despite Davis being listed as a forward and standing 6-foot-9 now, the first-year Irish coach has always seen him as a guard who can really help a team with the ball in his hands. "I think he's just getting more and more confident as it goes," Shrewsberry said after the Western Michigan game. "I kind of expected this from him. "He's getting good at attacking close-outs, he's reading things, he's getting to the rim. The next stage for him is, now, develop his playmaking even more. But he's playing really confident, and we gotta keep him here." That belief means a lot to Davis, who didn't get much of a chance to play on the perimeter at Seton Hall. "It means the world to all of us, to be able to do whatever we do on the court, honestly," Davis said. "It means the world to us as a whole." Shrewsberry expects the confidence and freedom he gives his players to be reciprocated with intense defensive effort, and Davis did that, too. Western Michigan's leading scorer is sophomore guard Seth Hubbard, and Davis drew his assignment for most of the game. Hubbard played 37 minutes and scored 13 points, but he shot only 4 of 15 from the field. "He's guarding the best guy, and he's scoring for you," Shrewsberry said. "He's stepped up great for us." — Jack Soble Davis scored a career-high 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Notre Dame's 86-65 win over Western Michigan Dec. 5. PHOTO COURTESY NOTRE DAME ATHLETICS

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