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Notre Dame Basketball

Feel-good Monday: Notre Dame sizzles, rips Western Michigan

December 20, 2021

For a change, it wasn’t about the last-minute rotation.

The best defender. Who hits the most free throws.

Notre Dame finally got a game in which drama was as verboten as a savvy Brian Kelly P.R. move.

Seeing Dane Goodwin blow past 1,000 career points and getting contributions up and down its seven-man lineup – though no more, Notre Dame eviscerated visiting Western Michigan, 85-52, inside Purcell Pavilion.

Four players for the Fighting Irish (5-5) scored at least 13 points, Goodwin finished with a game-high 18 and Notre Dame maintained its perfect mark at home.

“Well you look and glance at the stat sheet, see 19 assists,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said, two days after his team’s season-low five-dish output. “Still working on our identity. That’s a step in the right direction, trying to find our identity.”

The Irish went 14-for-31 from long-distance and converted 13 of 15 free throws as they bounced back from Saturday’s eight-point loss to rival Indiana in the latest iteration of the Crossroads Classic.

Paul Atkinson Jr. added 17 for the Irish; the Yale transfer hit five of 10 from the field and converted on seven of nine free-throw attempts.

Freshman sensation Blake Wesley added 15 points – he hit three of nine triples – and Cormac Ryan, off the bench, added 13.

“I thought we ran our stuff and stayed disciplined,” Brey said, “and (last) Saturday, they (the Indiana Hoosiers) are so good defensively, it was a little hard. But 19 assists, moving that ball around and controlling the tempo, then we picked our spots running on misses. We’ve got to get some easy shots on misses. I thought we put Prentiss back in the lineup and brought Cormac (Ryan) off just to do something different. I thought Prentiss kind of was the senior guard, the veteran guard all night He’s out there with Blake, to start a game, it helps Blake.”

After blowing a 24-15 lead in the rivalry tilt against Indiana, Notre Dame opened this game on a 10-0 run, led 27-13 early in the first half and then, after the Mustangs (4-7) had rallied to within 27-21, ended this contest in the closing stretch of the first half.

Notre Dame uncorked a 17-2 sprint into the break – the Irish’s top scoring binge 10 games into this season – and led 44-23 at the half.

“We were ready to play,” Brey said. “We were disappointed. We didn’t play great. We came back and had a chance to take a lead a couple times in a great atmosphere. When you can get off to a good start, it helps.”

Notre Dame led by 30 seven minutes into the second half, and – once Brey finally exercised more than a seven-man rotation – nonetheless managed to pull away to the 33-point victory.

The Irish shot 52% from the floor for the game (29-for-56) and capitalized on one of their most efficient efforts from both 3-point range and the free-throw line this season.

Lamar Norman Jr. paced WMU with 15 points.

Now, Notre Dame seeks consecutive wins for the first time since Nov. 13-16 when Texas A&M-Corpus Christi visits Purcell Pavilion Wednesday at 1 p.m.

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