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Notre Dame Basketball

Freeman is football coach but Brey's Irish remain in free-fall

December 3, 2021

Marcus Freeman will conduct his first press conference as Notre Dame's head football coach before Mike Brey's Fighting Irish basketball squad notches its first win this season against a Power 5 opponent.

Yeah, Notre Dame's men's basketball tailspin is continuing anew – four years and running – despite an offseason of dramatic staff changes, as well as the infusion of former Ivy League Player of the Year Paul Atkinson Jr. and heralded freshman recruit Blake Wesley.

The latest? An absolute abomination Friday night at Boston College, a projected bottom-tier Atlantic Coast Conference program under new coach Earl Grant.

The host Eagles shredded the hapless Irish, 73-57, in both teams' ACC lid-lifter. It didn't matter that Brey started Wesley and brought senior Prentiss Hubb off the bench – though Hubb generated his best performance this season with 15 points, four assists and no turnovers.

“Well, I, give a lot of credit to Boston College,” Brey said. “They came out, punched us in the mouth, crushed us on the backboard, and we never really recovered. They played great; I think Earl has done a fabulous job quickly, staying old and getting old guys.

“We were on our heels the whole night, back on our heels physically against them. So, you know, you're lucky one of those only counts as one league loss, because that was thorough. We've got to go back to the drawing board a little bit before we play again, because we play a pretty good team next Saturday (Kentucky).”

Notre Dame (3-4, 0-1 ACC) never led, four days after it was shredded by short-handed Illinois. The Irish were outrebounded, 38-27, outscored 32-20 in the paint and saw the Eagles score 18 points off their 11 turnovers.

Boston College (6-3, 1-0), meanwhile, did what the Irish could not in both winning the league opener and also securing its first win against a Power 5 foe.

The Eagles had five players in double figures, led by James Karnik's double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds. T.J. Bickerstaff added 14.

“It's not like we can hang our heads,” Brey said. “It's coming at us fast. I think their defense is excellent. He does a great job. I think he's one of the bright young coaches in the profession. I told him that this summer. And watching them play, before we played them live, they do what they do, they guard you, they grind you on offense and they just beat you up on the backboard. I think they had 7, 8, 9, 10 offensive rebounds by halftime.

“Actually, (Nate) Laszewski and Atkinson have rebounded the ball pretty good for us. Tonight, it looked like varsity versus JV. And we got exactly what we deserved.”

Late, the Fighting Irish lost all composure – and were taunted with chants of “Scoreboard! Scoreboard!” – as redshirt-freshman Elijah Taylor tumbled to the ground with Lankford and screamed at Lankford on the floor.

Taylor's technical foul allowed the Eagles to again forge out to a lead of more than 20 points, and Notre Dame never got closer than 16 the remainder of the contest.

Boston College took a 35-23 lead more than two minutes before the halftime break, and it never led by fewer than 11 the remainder of the contest.

Brey's nucleus of Atkinson, Hubb, Laszewski, Cormac Ryan and Dane Goodwin have combined to play more than 500 career collegiate games, but Brey pointed out the youth involved with Wesley.

“I think we really got frustrated because how they were guarding us,” Brey said. “We couldn't get, we like to throw it to Atkinson in the post and kind of play it off him, and then he missed a couple. I think it was great defense, now we're kind of lost a little bit. We are playing a young guard who has had flashes of great stuff. He was playing against 21, 22-year-olds tonight. We've got to keep helping him. You know, we brought Hubb off the bench. I think it helped him. …

“I'm trying to find a few silver linings, it is December 3. I know our two big guys are disappointed, because they played better.”

The Irish are off until next Saturday, when they host nationally ranked Kentucky at 5:15 p.m. inside Purcell Pavillion (ESPN).

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