Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Syracuse

January 21, 2017

The story of Saturday’s 84-66 win against Syracuse was the offensive play of VJ Beachem. The 6-foot-8 went for a career-high 30 points and hit six three-pointers on the day. It was a great sign for Mike Brey’s team, but also could give Beachem the confidence to get on a roll heading into an important stretch of games.  

"VJ was fabulous," said Brey. "That one had been growing for a while. I thought he moved and we found him in different spots.

“When we can get him flowing like that, it’s a confidence giver to his teammates. I think what may have helped him was that we had him guarding (Tyler) Lydon a little bit. It was a different kind of defensive challenge for him and I think it helped him on the offensive end.”

Notre Dame won the rebounding battle on Saturday 39-28, which is almost unheard of against Syracuse and it was a large reason the Irish pulled away in the second half.

“That was a key,” stated Brey. “I thought we did a good job. Roberson is such a great offensive rebounder, as is Lydon.  To defend and keep it to one and done – we did. We defended and they had to take a challenged shot, then they didn’t get many put backs. You have some breathing room on offense, because you’re guarding.

“I was pleased how we defended and rebounded.”

Austin Torres has come up big for the Irish in the last few games with his consistent hustle, but also adding to the stat line. The Granger (Ind.) native was big against Syracuse, as he recorded two points and five boards in just 12 minutes of action.

“Austin was Austin,” said Brey. “One of the things that he has been so good with is just leading us. He gets five rebounds and he’s active. He’s great at defending and I thought he made some great passes inside out in the zone.”

He’ll be a captain. He’s kind of a captain now. - Mike Brey
Word came out earlier this week that Torres would return for a fifth-year next season, but Brey also stated he would be captain for the 2017-18 squad.

“We had breakfast on Tuesday before we left for Florida State and it was the easiest decision ever,” explained Brey. “He needs to come back. He’s going to get an MBA and he’s got a great schedule academically he has worked out.

“He’ll be a captain. He’s kind of a captain now. The stuff he’s saying in huddles and in our locker room is off the charts. I am thrilled Matt Farrell, Bonzie Colson and him will be our captains next year. His role isn’t going to change and he’s smart enough to know it. We’re going to keep him in his role and he’s really good at it.”

While Torres will return, the question moves to how does that impact Elijah Burns and John Mooney’s development? There is a plan in place and seeing how well Bonzie Colson and Martinas Geben have developed only helps them believe in the plan.

“There’s a plan for those guys and I think it’s important to let them know that there is a plan for them,” Brey stated. “We’ve been lucky and healthy, but I think Burns and Mooney have seen the progression of the three big guys playing ahead of them and how they paid their dues. When they get a piece of it, they see that it’s a fun thing and that’s helped us.”  

For the first time in a while, Notre Dame got to somewhat cruise in the second half, as they held a double-digit lead and the game never got out of control. Brey enjoyed being able to not have a nail biter and it goes back to the relaxed practices he has been holding.

“I know we’re up and we get it to 15 and they hit a three,” Brey said. “I am thinking they are going to start pressing and it is going to be game situations again. We did one game situation in practice against the zone and you have to do things a little differently to get a shot at the end of the shot clock against the zone. Steve hit a three and that was it for practice. We were done and no need to mess around with it more.

“It was nice to have a little cushion.”


Things don’t get easier for the Irish, as the return to action on Tuesday against No. 16 Virginia, a team Notre Dame hasn’t beat since joining the ACC.

“One of the things I told our guys was the upperclassmen exercised a little bit of a demon in Syracuse because we hadn’t beaten them in a while,” said Brey. “I told them we had another one coming Tuesday. Since we joined the league these are the two teams we haven’t beaten.

“I think we have a very focused upperclassmen group that has had their butts beaten by Virginia. I think our crowd will be great and we will be excited about the challenge.”
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