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Notre Dame Basketball

Durham Dodges Serious Injury; Goodwin Rolling

December 29, 2019
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Juwan Durham arguably had played his most aggressive offensive game to date, along with his customary ball-swatting defense Sunday afternoon for Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish senior post was equally aggressive when he crumpled to the floor beneath the visitor’s basket with an apparent left knee injury, late in the second half.

Durham eventually hobbled off the court, was evaluated in the Notre Dame locker room and returned to the bench with about five minutes left in the Irish’s 82-56 win against visiting Alabama A&M.

Bullet dodged, it appears, for a Notre Dame team that has been besieged by debilitating injuries the past three seasons and already has lost sophomore guard Robby Carmody for the season with a torn ACL.

“It’s kind of like, ‘Oh, not again,’” said senior forward John Mooney, who notched the 31st double-double of his career with 18 points and 16 boards. “Juwan’s obviously a key guy for us and he was playing really well (Sunday).

“I talked to him, and I think it’s just a tweak, so that’s obviously really good news. We’ve just got to stay healthy.”

Durham finished with a plus-19 rating in just 21 minutes, scoring 11 points to go along with five boards and five blocked shots. Too, the 6-foot-11 post was more aggressive on the offensive end and helped blow open the game in the first half with back-to-back dunks.

“I think we need to emphasize throwing it in to him just as much as Johnny Mooney,” said Irish coach Mike Brey, who termed Durham’s injury a bruise and a sprain but said Durham should not miss any games. “I don’t know if we always did that. But he’s good with it in there, he’s a good passer in there, he’s going to make free throws when he gets fouled. I thought he was really active. He is a scoring option for us in the post.

“I think we’ve got to keep in mind throwing it down there into to him. Now, again, you’re going to play against a zone for 40 minutes and it’s a little bit different attack. But he certainly can get on the offensive boards on Saturday.”

Senior guard T.J. Gibbs, well-versed in the Irish’s injury misfortunes of recent seasons, said he immediately began to pray when Durham hit the deck and clutched his left knee, eventually prompting officials to whistle a stop in game action.

“Just to pray for our brother, that’s the first thing,” Gibbs said. “Each day, we pray. We get in here and pray that we stay healthy, but more just sticking together as a team. We know that he’s going to be good, he’s going to keep fighting for us, whether he can play or not, he’s going to fight through it. We’ve got to stick together and it’s next man up.”

With Durham expected not to miss time and the Irish beginning a season-defining run of 18 consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference games Saturday at Syracuse, Mooney said the Irish need Durham to continue his elevated production.

“Definitely, man; he’s flying around,” Mooney said of his roommate Durham. “Even against Indiana, he was really hooping. He’s getting more and more confident, kind of back to who he was. The sky’s the limit for him because he’s an unbelievable talent.”

Irish senior reserve forward Nik Djogo also was dinged up in the second half with a right foot sprain, but Brey also said he expected Djogo back at practice this week and anticipated him to be available against the Orange.

DANE’S GAIN

Sophomore guard Dane Goodwin continued his elevated play of late as the Irish’s top sixth-man. Goodwin closed out this win with a dozen points on 5-for-11 shooting in just 23 minutes.

Goodwin now has scored in double figures in four consecutive games.

“I think the light bulb is on,” Brey said of Goodwin, who has averaged 17.5 points per game in Notre Dame’s 3-1 close to non-conference play. “I really believe he is in it, he gets it, he’s aggressive. We are looking to run stuff for him when he comes into the game to help him.”

And Brey is continuing to look for amplified play from his sophomore trio of Goodwin, Prentiss Hubb and Nate Laszewski. They combined for 29 points in the win.

“Our seniors are kind of going to be our seniors,” Brey said. “And Durham is kind of trending into something, but I think where we go is a lot with our three sophomores, who are trending the right way. One has really stepped up, but they all have the potential to really kind of help us turn the corner.

“I said to them (Saturday), ‘You’re allowed to be great, the three of you (sophomores). You don’t have to wait.’”

 
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