Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Clamp Down on Hose

November 18, 2019

A depleted starting lineup, a short bench and the tail-end of a flurry of games could have proven disastrous Monday night for Notre Dame.

Instead, Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish again flashed their burgeoning resolve --- even without the reigning Atlantic Coast Conference player of the week.

Paced by Juwan Durham’s career-best 15 rebounds and 11 points, as well as Rex Pflueger’s 13 --- the fifth-year senior’s highest-scoring output since he had 14 Dec. 8, 2018, at UCLA --- Notre Dame outlasted visiting Presbyterian, 63-53, in front 5,752 fans inside Purcell Pavilion.

John Mooney was scratched from the game with a stomach virus, and the Blue Hose (1-3) had clawed within two, 51-49, with nearly nine minutes left in the game before the Fighting Irish (4-1) clamped down defensively and ratcheted up their offensive execution down the stretch.

“Somebody says, ‘Well, you know, you’re not going to need Johnny.’ We need everybody. We need everybody against everybody we play as we’re trying to develop here and get confident,” Brey said. “Again, they cut it to two, we called timeout. We’ve done some things with game pressure on us this year in a couple games that we weren’t able to do last year.

“November 18th, I look at that as progress for us. A little more belief, a little more ‘We’re going to get over this hump and finish this thing.’ Especially how we executed some sets, a couple in a row to give us a couple possession lead. We really just did it. And let’s build on it. We’ve got our hands full on Thursday.”

Thursday is Toledo, the last foe in the Men Against Breast Cancer Invitational. The Rockets also already have dispatched Robert Morris, Marshall and Howard; their only blemish is a 79-77 loss at Valparaiso.

But first things first: Notre Dame had to grind out this game with just seven players scoring and logging significant minutes. Robby Carmody also was out, still in concussion “protocol” per Brey.

Pflueger had a key play to get the Irish into their offense, and Nate Laszewski twice soared baseline for emphatic dunks that helped Notre Dame close out its fourth-straight win after an opening loss at North Carolina. Laszewski finished with 11; T.J. Gibbs added 10 --- including a deep 3 from the Purcell Pavilion lettering just feet from midcourt at the halftime buzzer for a 39-31 Irish lead.

“I think we’ve been getting a lot better at that, think we’ve improved and matured from last year, especially,” Pflueger said. “Our guys, you can see it a little bit. Last year, those games would be a little bit more shaky.

“But I think our guys internally have a lot more confidence in each other. We’re one year older, we’re healthier --- obviously not tonight. Freshmen are no longer freshmen and everyone’s growing up. So in those end of the game situations, I don’t think we fret as much as we did last year and we just feel more confident.”

Durham might have embodied that rediscovered determination more than anyone against the Blue Hose. The 6-foot-11 transfer from UConn gathered 12 of his 15 boards on the defensive end, where he also recorded four blocked shots. He also hit 3 of 5 field-goal attempts and made 10 trips to the line but only converted on half of his charity tosses.

“I was really trying to just now shy away from contact and trying to go at his chest and every time I did, he fouled me,” said Durham, who closed with a plus-13 rating. “I realized if I keep doing that, I was going to go to the free-throw line; only thing is, I just have to make free throws now.”

Now 4-0 on its six-game homestand that runs through November 26, Notre Dame hopes to be back at full strength on Thursday in an 8:30 p.m. game that will be featured on the ACC Network.
“They’re really well-coached, they’re old, they know who they are. They made 14 3s at Marshall,” Brey said. “I just told our guys they can win the Mid-American Conference. they’re coming in here thinking, ‘They’re a big win for us if we can get it’ because that’s going to be a resume win. I’ve got to rally our fans. We need you, this is kind of an ACC preparation. They’re really good.”

Cory Hightower led Presbyterian with 15 points – though Hightower only scored three in the second half.

Irish Sports Daily
Final Box Score


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