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Notre Dame Basketball

Goodwin, Starling Put Penguins Away

November 13, 2022

Opening night didn’t go the way JJ Starling planned as he finished with nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the field. 

The debut was far from horrible, but the McDonald’s All-American expected more from himself.

Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey told his staff not to push Starling and let the veterans give his freshman guard confidence. 

It paid off as Starling scored 17 points, including back-to-back threes to stick a dagger in Youngstown State and allow the Irish to get the 88-81 win on Sunday night. 

“He’s so sharp,” Brey explained. “He knew he played a little safe and that’s OK. It’s almost predictable, but I told the staff don’t push up on him. I don’t want him to think he has to force anything. The greatest endorsement of being aggressive was Dane (Goodin), Trey (Wertz), Cormac (Ryan) and Nate (Laszewski) going to him, ‘Hey man. Go for it a little bit.’ 

“That’s the endorsement. They did it for me and that’s important because they know they need him to get where we want to get. It’s similar to Blake’s (Wesley) stuff. The old guys saying, ‘Look, you have your drive and he is really gifted physically when he gets in there.” 

Starling wasn’t the only one in double figures as all five of Notre Dame’s starters scored at least 13 points on the night. Goodwin led the Irish with 20 points on 9-for-14 shooting. 

The endorsement from the veterans was a confidence builder for Starling, but being on the floor and seeing Notre Dame’s core four go to work is perhaps even more significant to his development. 

“It’s perfect,” stated Starling. “I can look over at Dane, Cormac and their level-headed so it’s making me level-headed. I know I don’t need to panic because we’re going to have everything under control.” 

And while it might be game two, Starling is the x-factor for Notre Dame and Sunday could be just the beginning of something special.

“I’m glad to be back hitting big shots and getting to the rim,” said Starling. “I know that’s what I can do well and my teammates trust me to do that.” 

Starling wasn’t the only freshman to make game-changing plays on Sunday night. Forward Ven-Allen Lubin came up with key rebounds and a huge block on a transition layup. Yet, it was a three-ball in the second half that gave Notre Dame a much-needed boost of confidence. 

Lubin, who has been playing with a face mask due to a face injury, sunk a three to put the Irish up by nine with 11:32 in the game and it was a shot that seemed ill-timed, but it went in.  

“I would love to get that darn mask off him, but there are protocols for another week or two weeks,” Brey stated. “I do think that knocked him back. He is really gifted as you can see. That’s a big three he hit up top. He can block shots and we don’t have a guy like that. He’s good with the ball and knows how to play.

“He and JJ have a high basketball IQ and that’s why the old guys love them. They don’t upset the apple cart and know how to play the right way.” 

The 6-foot-8 big man finished with nine points going 4-for-4 from the floor and pulled down four rebounds in 24 minutes of action.   

“We’re going to need him and need more of him,” said Brey. “The other night, we’re playing a lot of guards and we’re down. It’s not like Ven can be in the game and bring you back. It’s got to be with a small lineup of veteran guys. Tonight, we had control of the game for the most part and we had to get him over 20 minutes. 

“He is just an impactful guy. It’s no different than when we had Paul (Atkinson). Do we go big? Do we go small? Do we go two bigs?” 

Notre Dame’s first two opponents haven’t backed down from testing the Irish late in games, but there has never been a panic from Brey’s group. It’s the perk of playing four graduate students who have seen everything college basketball has to offer. 

“I think a lot of that is just from our experience over the past four years,” said Goodwin, who also added seven rebounds and three assists in addition to his 20 points. “We were in so many of these situations last year where we can draw things off of it. Adding JJ to that and we’re giving him that experience almost through us a little bit. 

“We know if we stay poised in the last 10 minutes or whatever it is and play our game that we're eventually going to pull it out.” 

Notre Dame is part of the Gotham Classic, which means the Irish will host two games before heading to the brand new UBS Arena in New York to play the third game. Southern Indiana will head to Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday night for an 8:00 pm ET tip in the first matchup. 

In addition to Southern Indiana, Bowling Green will come to South Bend on November 22nd and then the Irish will play the final game of the Gotham Classic against St. Bonaventure in New York on November 25th. 

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Goodwin, Starling Put Penguins Away

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