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Notre Dame Basketball

Irish get on track, hold off Detroit Mercy in home-opening win

December 6, 2020

Consider a step forward.

And another sign that this woefully short-handed Notre Dame team is willing to fight.

Down a point late in their home opener against visiting Detroit Mercy, the Fighting Irish used a 12-0 run to secure their first of the 2020-21 season, 78-70 against the Titans (0-2) Sunday night inside the Purcell Pavilion echo chamber on the Notre Dame campus.

“I'm really proud of our group,” said ND coach Mike Brey. “That's a team that had Michigan State on the ropes Friday night and had us on the ropes. I love the execution offensively and thought defense was really good once we got the lead back. It's something to build on.

“To win a hard game and have to do some stuff, I think we can build on it.”

After Antoine Davis gave Detroit a 63-62 lead, Notre Dame answered with Dane Goodwin's go-ahead bucket, 3-pointers from both Prentiss Hubb and Cormac Ryan, and an emphatic interior bucket from Juwan Durham.

The key stretch allowed the Irish (1-1) to secure their first win before they host No. 23 Ohio State Tuesday night as part of the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

All five Notre Dame starters scored in double figures, led by Hubb's 18 that included four triples. Nate Laszewski added a double-double, with 16 points and 11 boards after the junior had nearly generated a similar stat-line in the opening loss at Michigan State. Durham and Ryan each contributed a dozen.

Hubb and Ryan combined for 14 assists. Goodwin closed with a double-double of his own; he snared 10 boards to go along with 15 points.

“It's infectious,” Laszewski said of Ryan's impact, day in and day out. “He's taken the two early charges in the game (against Detroit). We could see even last year when he had to sit out, he was always hype.

“His energy never dips. We all just kind of thrive off his energy.”

Neither team found much separation in the first half. The visitors led by three into the first media timeout, but evened things on a Hubb three and took its first lead on Goodwin's triple.

The Irish then trailed only once more in the first half, for 47 seconds, after Matt Johnson's and-1 bucket.

Notre Dame finished the half on a 13-7 run that nearly was more; Hubb's midcourt-heave swished through the net but left his hand a split-second too late at the buzzer.

The Irish also blended a mix of zone defenses to help the Titans off-balance and to preserve their own shortened bench. Notre Dame played on freshmen Tony Sanders Jr. and Matt Zona in the game; Brey said forward Nik Djogo was out with an ankle injury that also would sideline Djogo Tuesday night against visiting Ohio State.

Detroit shot just 29 percent from the 3-point range (eight-for-28) and were held under 40% from the floor (29-for-71).

“It saves the legs of our (starting) five,” Brey said. “We played six for the most part. Djogo has an ankle, he won't be ready Tuesday. Maybe he will be ready Saturday (at Kentucky).

“The zone buys us some time. Takes pressure off our legs.”

Bul Kuol led Detroit with 18; Matt Johnson chipped in with 15. Davis finished with 14.

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