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Notre Dame Basketball

Spartans batter Notre Dame in hoops opener

November 28, 2020

A shortened bench. A prolonged scoring drought. A familiar refrain.

After Nate Laszewski converted an improbable and-1 three-point play for a four-point edge, Notre Dame watched a 26-22 first-half lead transformed into a 39-26 halftime deficit en route to a season-opening 80-70 loss Saturday at No. 13 Michigan State.

“Well you know it's a great example of how fragile a game is,” said Irish coach Mike Brey, who dropped his second-straight season-opener. “It's 26-22 with 7 minutes to go in the first half. We don't score the rest of the way.

“We just really, I thought, had some careless turnovers and then we fouled. And kind of lost control of it.”

The Fighting Irish (0-1) had matched the Spartans (2-0) through the game's first 14 minutes with timely 3-point shooting and selfless, smart basketball. But after Laszewski's points with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left in the opening frame, Notre Dame didn't score again in the first half and the lack of offense spanned halftime and through the first two minutes of the second half.

By the time Notre Dame got a pair of free throws from Cormac Ryan moments into the second half, the host Spartans had constructed a commanding 22-point lead, 48-26, and never were threatened the remainder of the game.

Michigan State led by as many as 28 points in the second half, 62-34, and had a 20-plus point advantage for the majority of the second half before the Irish managed to chip away at the Spartans' lead while Spartans coach Tom Izzo cleared out his bench throughout the game's closing minutes.

“Well, there's no question not having the jerseys on until tonight,” Brey said, “and then you deal with these guys. That's a little bit of an adjustment that is going to be more difficult. For Cormac Ryan, he hadn't played and just to be out there and find a rhythm at times, I thought, was good for him.

“We've got to keep finding some guys to come off the bench and help us. Matt (Zona) and Tony (Sanders Jr.) are trying their backsides off, and their first game is at Michigan State.”

A Stanford transfer forced to sit out last season, Ryan turned in 13 points in his Irish debut. Prentiss Hubb led all scorers with 23 points on 22 shots. Laszewski and Dane Goodwin both finished with 12.

“Well, I think we've just got to play hard for a full 40 minutes,” said Hubb, like Ryan a team captain. “I think we kind of let up at the end of the first half and beginning of the second half. I think if we came out with that same energy that we came out with the last 10 minutes of the game, I think it would have been a different outcome.”

Joey Hauser posted a double-double for the Spartans, with 10 points and 16 boards, while Aaron Henry and Rocket Watts had cracked double figures before the midpoint of the second half.

The Spartans had 11 players dent the scoring column and played 15; the Irish got just six points and 30 minutes from their four bench players in this game.

“I'm kind of thrilled we got the game in,” Brey said. “We went through four COVID tests this week so we could play. I was so relieved at noon (Saturday) and we went through the fourth one we get to play. Now we can evaluate our group.

“We've got some kids that will fight and compete and battle. That's a good instinct to have here early in the season and something to build on.”

Up next for Notre Dame is its home debut Wednesday against Western Michigan. Tip is set for 7 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion. The game is closed to the general public due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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