Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Louisville

March 5, 2017

Notre Dame (23-8, 12-6) might have fallen to Louisville (24-7, 12-6) on Saturday afternoon but there were many things the Irish can take and use heading into March.

The ACC schedule provided many stringent tests for Notre Dame over the last three months, and on Saturday, the Irish will benefit in tournament play from playing at the KFC YUM! Center.

“That had a NCAA Tournament feel to it,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey stated. “What a great college game. We give credit to Louisville. I thought a couple of guys made big shots when they needed too. (Deng) Adel’s three over a Steve Vasturia challenge was the difference.

“I love our group. We gave ourselves a chance. It was hard to score against Louisville’s defense. They are hard to deal with.”

Entering Saturday’ game, Notre Dame had won six ACC games in a row by playing small ball. The smaller lineup gives the Irish ability to space the floor and attack the rim. On the flipside, the small lineup hurts the Irish at times on the defensive end and the glass.

Louisville outrebounded Notre Dame 44-27 on Saturday, but they were also getting points in the paint (30-28 advantage). The Irish had to turn to a bigger lineup and went zone against the Cardinals.

“We were playing around with a zone and going big,” explained Brey. “That really helped us. I figured let’s go to zone, and I wanted someone to hit a jump shot to beat us instead of a tip dunk or a drive. He hit it. You take your hat off to them on an afternoon like this.

“Their size wears on you over 40 minutes. The front line did wear us down a little bit.”

When the Irish went small, it meant big man Martinas Geben would come off the floor. The junior center saw his time decrease and didn’t play in some recent games. However, the 6-foot-11 force came to play on Saturday as he finished with four points and four rebounds in 16 minutes of action.  

“I am so pleased with Martinas Geben right now,” stated Brey. “Geben started for us and then DNP’d for a couple of games. In that atmosphere, against that front line, to do what he did – he’s playing better now than when he started. It comes at the right time.

“I am looking at a positive coming out of here even though we lost. We have another big that can help us in the postseason.”

Will the Irish play bigger again or will they continue with the smaller lineup?

“It’s the $20 million question with who we are,” laughed Brey. “Are we efficient enough with the small lineup and make enough shots to absorb offensive rebounds? Saturday, we weren’t efficient enough offensively, and that’s why we went big for a while.”
Notre Dame will now turn its focus on the ACC Tournament this week in Brooklyn. The Irish enter as the No. 3 seed and met their goal of getting a double-bye.  

“Our guys are excited for March,” Brey said. “Brooklyn has been good for us. We’re excited to play up there. We are excited to show up in a week for Selection Sunday. When you show up on that board on Sunday, it’s going to be a pretty good offseason.”

The Irish will likely get Virginia as the first opponent in the ACC Tournament, a team they haven’t beat in ACC play. The Cavaliers will play the winner of Georgia Tech/Pittsburgh on March 8.

With big games on the horizon, Brey and his team are excited for the tournament and the chance to play in Brooklyn.   

“It’s unbelievable,” said Brey. “It’s going to be great. I think it’s new for some of our other Southern friends. I think it’s awesome.

“What a league. We’re just thrilled we survived most of it.”
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