Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Wants Offense Rolling; Rex Update, Mooney Honored

January 6, 2020
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The Notre Dame team bus pulled up in front of Purcell Pavilion Saturday night, hours after the Fighting Irish staged a resilient, 88-87 comeback-win at Syracuse, and coach Mike Brey merely asked one question of his team.

“I actually said on the bus Saturday night when we pulled up here,” Brey said, “‘We had 88. Can you get me 90 Wednesday?’ They were like, ‘Oh, yeah. Yeah.’”

Wednesday is the next step in the Atlantic Coast Conference road tour for Notre Dame (10-4, 1-2 ACC), when it plays at North Carolina State.

The Wolfpack (10-4, 1-2 ACC) are tied for 27th nationally in scoring at 80.2 points per game, just seven off the average of national leader and top-ranked Gonzaga. The Irish are tied for 86th at 76.1 ppg but are coming off their highest point-total against a Power-5 foe since scoring 88 in their Dec. 15, 2018, win against Purdue.

“Just keep playing how we play,” senior guard T.J. Gibbs said of the Irish’s next step. “We answered (Syracuse’s) runs, we’re growing up and we proved we can do it. Just have to keep building on that, keep playing and the more we play together, the better play together.

“Just play smarter, harder and together.”

Notre Dame is doing exactly that in the categories Brey prioritizes most: assists, turnovers and fouls committed. Notre Dame is coming off a 26-dish performance in its most recent win and leads the country with a 1.96 assist-to-turnover ratio.

“Alan (Wasielewski) made a good point: You have these benchmarks in your program that you’re trying to emphasize and teach, being good with the ball, not turning it over and not fouling,” Brey said. “My guys are going to say, ‘Coach, are doing OK? We’re leading the nation in all three. Are we getting the message?’

“Certainly the handling the ball part of it is really interesting to watch, especially against a zone where we could pass it and move it like the other day.”

It’s a different test against the uptempo Pack, who also lean toward aggressive ball-pressure defense.

“When we get misses and run, we’re throwing ahead and making plays early so you don’t have to play against a set defense,” Brey said. “Especially ball-pressure. N.C. State has the ability to do that, Louisville (Saturday’s Irish opponent inside Purcell Pavilion) has the ability to do that.

“So, post-feeds, screening off the ball, getting down early so we’re not playing up against it. We need work on that all week.”

Notre Dame is making 10 3-pointers per game this season and owns 49 3s in going 3-1 in its last four games. Kentucky coach John Calipari talked about the Irish’s work from long-distance last month when he watched Notre Dame manhandle visiting Detroit, for whom Calipari’s son, Brad, is a guard.

“He said, ‘If you can just make 11 or 12, you’re in every one of them,’” Brey said. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’s true.’ Not turning it over, not fouling, being good with it. We don’t have live-ball turnovers coming back down on us and our defense has been pretty solid when we set it.”

REX’S STATUS

Fifth-year senior guard Rex Pflueger left the court just moments before halftime Saturday at Syracuse and could not return to action with what Brey described as a bone-bruise in his knee.

But Monday, Brey stressed the injury isn’t to Pflueger’s surgically repaired knee and more so requires some pain management.

“I think he’ll be a game-time decision, just an update on him,” Brey said. “It’s nothing with the ACL. He’s got a little bit of a bone bruise that you get when you blow an ACL, and there’s always going to be irritation. The play at halfcourt he ran in, and then he had the great illegal screen so Prentiss could get a layup.

“We won’t let him practice (Monday), and we’ll see how he is Wednesday. But it’s not anything with the ACL.”

ACC HONORS MOONEY AGAIN

John Mooney nabbed ACC Player of the Week honors for the second time this season --- the first league player to do so --- after his 28-point, 14-rebound performance in the win at Syracuse.

Mooney continues to lead the Irish in both scoring (15.6) and rebounding (13.5) --- the latter good enough to lead the nation.

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Brey Wants Offense Rolling; Rex Update, Mooney Honored

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