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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook | 1.2

January 2, 2020

Notre Dame basketball has been nearly perfect this season at home, save for a dreadful day against Boston College last month when the Fighting Irish’s rally fell just short.

Now, Notre Dame is getting back into Atlantic Coast Conference play with Saturday’s game at Syracuse that kick-starts 18 consecutive league games. Tip is 4 p.m. (ESPN2).

The Irish (9-4), who dropped their ACC opener at North Carolina to begin the season and then lost the Boston College game to drop to 0-2 in league play, are trying to win a true road game for the first time since Feb. 2, 2019, at Boston College. They’ll get three chances in their next four games, with trips to N.C. State and Georgia Tech book-ending a home date with top-10 Louisville on January 11.

“We need one,” coach Mike Brey said of trying to win away from Purcell Pavilion. “I love how we’ve played at home and our offensive numbers at home, other than the Boston College game. But we’ve played some road games where we just two of them, we just couldn’t finish. One of them is where you could say, ‘You probably shouldn’t get it, but you could have got it.’ and it just does wonders for your confidence when you do.

“We need one, and we’ve got two coming at us here right out of the gate.”

Syracuse (8-5, 1-1 ACC) isn’t quite the long, rangy and zone-predicated, inside-outside squad as has been customary under coach Jim Boeheim. The Orange are shooting more 3-pointers and have made 123 shots from distance this season --- just six fewer than Notre Dame, which is tied for 25th nationally in that category.

“They’re more aggressive, they’re shooting the 3 well,” said fifth-year senior guard Rex Pflueger. “I think our defense has been stellar so far this year, but we can be better.

“This is going to be a great game for us to prove that we are a great defensive team.”

It’s the Irish’s offensive flow --- and the ability to sustain it for an entire game --- that Brey points to as equally key against a Syracuse team that’s won seven of nine home games.

“We could really use an offensive rhythm for closer to 40 minutes away from our building,” Brey said. “We have not had that yet. We’ve had spurts. And the spurt against Indiana was amazing, but we’re going to have to be able to do it longer and then continue to defensive rebound enough.”

This game could hinge on which team shoots most efficiently from behind the arc.

“We’re playing a way different Syracuse team than what we’ve seen lately. They’re shooting 3s and they’ve got three guys just firing away, and that is not how Syracuse has played,” Brey said. “So our preparation for Syracuse as over the years we start looking at tape, it’s a little bit different. They’re not doing much inside; it’s shooting with those three perimeter guys. And then you know, playing against the zone, we pass and catch really good. If you’re not good with the ball and you have to play against the zone for 65 possessions, it usually shows itself. Different guys touching the ball in different places.

“But yet we are really good with the ball. The week we made 35 3s, Detroit and UCLA zoned us. That was pretty much zone movement and where we’ve had trouble is when people get up, Boston College, and get into us. Indiana, early in the game. Get up and get into us. But when we can pass it and move it and get our feet set, we feel pretty good about ourselves. So it needs to be the case Saturday.”


Both Juwan Durham and Nik Djogo departed the Irish’s win last Sunday against Alabama A&M prematurely with injuries.

Durham’s left-knee injury was termed a sprain, while Djogo had a mild ankle sprain. Brey said both players have resumed practice and would play against Syracuse.

“Good, good,” Brey said of Durham. “He practiced, he came back and rested a little bit the day after. Tuesday was right back in practice.

“So he’s good; Nik is back in practice, was a little bit of a tweak. We’ve got everybody, and God knows we need them all.”

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