Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Rolls In Exhibition 72-43

October 29, 2019
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It was best-case-scenarios all around Tuesday night inside the Joyce Center, as Notre Dame opened its 20th season of basketball under coach Mike Brey.

Fifth-year senior Rex Pflueger made his return, nearly a month ahead of schedule, from the season-ending injury that robbed him of almost his entire 2018-19 season.

John Mooney, the “Machine,” as Brey calls him, uncorked his customary double-double performance.

Dane Goodwin quickly brushed off the nerves of facing his father’s Capital University squad with a 10-point night.

And the Fighting Irish knocked out Capital, 72-43, in their first of two preseason exhibitions before their Nov. 6 season-opener at ACC rival and No. 9-ranked North Carolina.

“I was just so happy to be back out there,” said Pflueger, who played 14 minutes with three rebounds, two steals and did not score. “Especially last week not even knowing when I was going to go live.

“I passed the knee test on Thursday or Friday, and then I was able to practice Friday-Saturday, get some in on Sunday and then be able to come out Monday then Tuesday, come out here and play with my brothers. Last year was difficult but just seeing how much these guys have matured and progressed their games, it’s really exciting to be out there playing.”

Mooney shared team-high scoring honors with Juwan Durham with 12 apiece; Mooney, the ACC’s leading double-double generator, added 10 boards. Nikola Djogo matched Goodwin’s 10 points.

“He’s just a machine, man,” Brey said of Mooney. “He’s a machine. He and Juwan have been playing together a lot. That’s kind of how we’ve been starting, and I expect that’s how we’ll start here for a while. And they like playing together.

“They’re almost a little too unselfish, they pass to each other and pass up some shots. But they play together. Johnny, just gotta keep him fresh. He’s just a machine. He should have a great year. He just gets it done. He gets us started offensively a lot.”

Notre Dame was a bit slow-starting on offense, as it didn’t secure a permanent lead until midway through the opening half when back-to-back buckets lifted a 20-16 advantage.

The Fighting Irish then systematically separated themselves from the NCAA Division III Crusaders, coached by Goodwin’s father, Damon.

“First glance, looking down, seeing my dad over there, definitely different but I enjoyed it,” Dane Goodwin said. “He’s taught me everything I know. Pretty crazy to be on opposite sides.”

Up 35-25 at the intermission, Notre Dame scored the first seven points of the second half and soon thereafter led 50-30.

Brey got to see both the return of Pflueger and an elevated practice intensity somewhat carry over into this preseason showcase.

“(Rex) got cleared four days ago, and he’s practiced almost all of practice every day,” Brey said. “My feeling was, start him, he’s loose. Our goal was 15 minutes. Just neat seeing him out there. How he defends and finds people.”

Robby Carmody, who had a brilliant hustle play in diving out of bounds to save a deflected ball back onto the court, provided the game’s final points with his fastbreak-layup. Carmody, as did T.J. Gibbs, finished with nine points.

Notre Dame shot 45 percent from the field (29-for-64) but hit on just 10 of 19 free throws; the Irish made just four of 18 3-pointers and closed with a 46-38 rebounding edge.

“You know one thing that I think’s happened, is because our guys know, they’ve got a league game right out of the gate, and that opponent, I think our practices have been another level,” Brey said. “Because they see what’s coming right away. These guys have good work habits anyway.

“But I’ve reminded them, ‘Hey, 12 days, eight, whatever.’ I think it’s almost helped us be better in practice because of how we’re starting out next Wednesday.”

The Fighting Irish host Bellarmine Friday night at 7 in their final tune-up; the Knights dropped a hard-fought 75-65 decision Tuesday at Louisville, the nation’s No. 5 team in the preseason AP Top 25.

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