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Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Duke

January 30, 2017

Notre Dame dropped its third-straight ACC game on Monday night, as the Irish fell to Duke 84-74 at Purcell Pavilion. It doesn’t get much easier for Mike Brey’s team with a road trip to Chapel Hill on Saturday. Not exactly the recipe for ending a losing streak.

“For us, it’s league play and we have to bounce back at North Carolina,” Brey said after the Duke loss. “That’s how you have to get going again in this league. I am thrilled we have six league wins and we’ll take that right now.

“The punches of league play are going to come. We’re getting them right now. Hopefully, we can be resilient enough to bounce back.”  

Changes Coming

After watching his offense struggle in the first half of games in January, Brey is going to make a change heading into Saturday. The Irish will be going smaller with the starting five, as they almost doubled their first-half point production in the second half against Duke by going small.

“We have to start a different lineup,” stated Brey. “I liked our 5-out in the second half. We scored 49 points in the second half. I think we have to consider starting small like we did in the second half where the floor is open. We are moving and cutting.

“We’re going to have to score some points to beat some people in this league.”

The question quickly turns to who will be the starter? Freshman point guard TJ Gibbs makes sense to take some pressure off Matt Farrell. Sophomore wing Rex Pflueger makes sense, as he can stretch the floor and will give Notre Dame instant defense to start games.  

“I don’t know,” Brey said of who will be his fifth starter. “It’s to be determined. You have Rex or TJ. I think both of those guys make themselves guys we have to look at. They both played big minutes tonight and throughout the season.

“We started Rex the second half because he’s played more, but I like them both. I think we need to consider starting smaller because we can start a little better offensively.”

Another name to watch will be freshman John Mooney. The 6-foot-10 forward hasn’t played much recently, but he has the size and ability to stretch the floor the Irish are looking for.  

“I think Johnny is a guy,” Brey stated. “We looked at him in practice yesterday, but I just didn’t get to him today. I do want to get to him a little bit more. He’s a bigger guy and he can space the floor. He’s a guy we will look at more.”  

Free Throws

Entering Monday night's game, Notre Dame led the nation in free throw percentage at 81.5 percent. The Irish shot just 68 percent (19/28) against Duke and in a 10-point game, the misses hurt even more.

Brey isn’t overly worried about it and will let his team figure it out.

“I don’t know and I am not going overanalyze it,” Brey said of the free throw problems. “I don’t want our guys thinking about it too much. It’s like lining up a putt and thinking about it too much. I think some of it is fatigue and wear and tear.

“That did hurt us, no question. When we’re digging out of a hole, we have to make some of those free throws to have a chance.”  


Notre Dame battled on the boards against Duke, but once again lost the rebounding battle 38-26. What really hurt was Duke outrebounded Notre Dame 21-10 in the second half.

Brey knows the rebounding needs to get better but admitted Duke presented some tough matchups on the defensive end that led to the rebounding struggles.

“When we can keep it to one and done that helps us,” said Brey. “Overall, we did an OK job at that. You were in the game because they didn’t make 10 threes. They can really shoot it, so you can’t help guys much. Jefferson and Tatum inside the arc, your kind of playing them with one guy, because you don’t want them kicking out and hitting threes.”  

Bad Luck

During its hot start to ACC play, Notre Dame was getting the rolls and bounces in its favor. Over the last three games, those plays haven’t been kind to the Irish.
“The first five games of the ACC we made those plays,” stated Brey. “We haven’t made them lately, but I don’t want us to overanalyze and get too crazy. We’re going to be back in that situation again. I think now you try to keep your group confident. We have put ourselves in a good position with six league wins right now.”

Brey will rely on his experience and his coaching staff to keep his team’s spirits up, as they have to finish out the ACC play strong.  

“They will be good,” explained Brey. “I think you are knocked back on your heels. The first five games you were living. Everything was great. Human nature in this league says ‘They’re coming’ and we’re catching them right now.

“The staff and I have to help them out of it. The reality of it helps me stay sane. I’ve coached in a tough league 17 years. You won five in a row out of the gate. You might never win five in a row against, so you coach and adjust accordingly to handle your guys. Not that we are lowering the bar, but you have to get them realistic too. We’ll watch some film tomorrow and accept responsibility for some things.”


As the February rolls around and March inches closer, Notre Dame is just 1-5 and on a three-game losing streak. Will that have NCAA Tournament implications? Mike Brey is leaving that up to you.

“We certainly have more chances against ranked teams,” said Brey. “Our numbers are good. What gets us in? Does 9-9 get us in? You debate that.”
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