Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Road Games

January 10, 2017

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey touched on it after Saturday’s win against Clemson, but rest is going to be key for his squad over the next few weeks. Brey has a deep rotation, but some of his guys getting big minutes aren’t used to playing big minutes and need to learn how to manage their bodies throughout the long season.

“I want to keep them fresh physically,” Brey stated on Tuesday afternoon. “The last couple of days, we needed to get some guys legs back. It’s new territory for Bonzie (Colson), Matt Farrell and even Rex (Pflueger), playing the minutes they are playing.

“How we rest them, how we keep it fresh and length of practice is all very much on our minds, because we have another three games jammed in tight.”

The Irish will play two road games in three days, so sneaking in rest is going to be key for Notre Dame, as they head to Miami and then Virginia Tech.

“You don’t do much practicing on the days in between,” explained Brey. “You kind of treat it like we did in the NCAA Tournament. You have a walk through, you shoot and stretch. It’s more of a mental day than a physical day on Friday. It’s a day you try to get your energy back quickly no matter what happens on Thursday night.”  

Sophomore sharp shooter Matt Ryan is averaging 5.4 points a night in 10 minutes of play this season, but Brey knows he has to find a way to get his player more confidence and more minutes.

“I think for him it’s about be conscious of being a better defender and rebounding for us,” stated Brey. “He can rebound the ball and I think he’s an underrated passer. When he’s playing with a clear head, he’s not just hunting his shot, but he’s fitting in and screening a little bit on offense.

“We’ll continue to keep coaching him there and Thursday night could be a night where he plays longer. He’s a weapon that’s on my mind and you’re always trying to figure out how to use it.”  

The Irish didn’t do well last year against Miami and this year the Hurricanes are off to an 11-3 start in 2016-17. However, the team Notre Dame will face on Thursday is much different than the one they saw a year ago.

“They’re different and they are actually a little younger than they have been in a while,” Brey said. “We had no answer for them in two games. They flat out put it on us. They have a 20-game home winning streak in that building down there.

“They have good guards and playing well. I think rebounding will be a key. We have to talk and be in a frame of mind before we played Colorado. We were kind of afraid we couldn’t rebound with them and I think that’s going to be a key for us.”

We had no answer for them in two games. They flat out put it on us. - Mike Brey on facing Miami last season
One thing Notre Dame will need to be careful of is the pace of the game on Thursday. Miami isn’t going to get into a run and gun game, but they are going to take their time and be efficient on the offensive end of the floor.  

“It’s an interesting pace,” Brey stated. “They are playing the slowest of anyone in the league. They are kind of methodical in their stuff and they are grinding, so our defensive possessions will be longer. They kind of walk it up.

“I think keeping them off the offensive boards and keeping it to one and done against a lot of bouncey guys is a key for us.”  

For the third game in a row, Steve Vasturia knocked in a shot to essentially seal the deal at the end of the game. Brey isn’t surprised, as his senior has done it since he was a young player.

“He does set a great tone and makes us believe,” Brey explained. “Throughout his career, Steve has been a big shot taker and a big shot maker. I do think he gives the rest of the group a confidence. Farrell is out of his mold and always has been.”  

We’re going to keep learning about ourselves right up until March. - Mike Brey
Entering the year, many had concerns about Notre Dame’s low post presence, as Martinas Geben was an unknown. Through the first half of the season, Notre Dame has seen quality play from the junior center and while he isn’t averaging a double-double, Geben is doing the little things the Irish have needed him to do.

“He’s got to continue to be that post defender, which he does that every night,” said Brey. “I am always after him to rebound more. The one thing you can be selfish about in basketball is rebounding. He doesn’t need to share with Bonzie.

“Be a greedy rebounder and get on the offensive boards, because he has a knack for that. We going to need that on the road. He has been a very reliable post defender, ball screen show guy and screener off the ball.

“He’s really very good with the basketball. We throw it to him and he’s kicking it to the right people.”

As the Irish head off for three games away from Purcell Pavilion, Brey believes his team is prepared to handle road game struggles and even a loss or two and that starts with him.

“I think you’re always prepared,” explained Brey. “On game day when I am driving in, I am thinking about what I say when we win and what would I say if we lose. What’s the message? You kind of practice them both the night before.

“We talk about bounce back mode. We have a pretty good habit of doing that in this program, especially in regular season league play. I told them we’re going to take punches in our league and it’s how we react to it.

“Right now, they have a huge belief in finishing close games. That is a psychological advantage for us, especially going into three tough road atmospheres.” 

The road trip will tell Brey a lot about where his team is, but he knows he can only take so much from it, as it’s a long season and the goal is to be peaking in March.

“We’re going to keep learning about ourselves right up until March,” said Brey. “You’re still developing as a group and you’re still learning. I don’t think we are a finished product and they need to understand that. That’s why practice is important for us.
“For the staff and I, we have to keep that in mind. What can we evaluate and do better? That’s got to be a theme for us all the way until March.”
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