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Notre Dame Basketball

Hot Irish Roll Western Michigan 86-65

December 5, 2023

Notre Dame (4-4) desperately needed to find its offense and the Fighting Irish did just that during Tuesday night's 86-65 win over Western Michigan (2-6). 

The Irish shot a blistering 59 percent from the floor, which included going 9-of-22 from three-point range, but it wasn’t all from outside as Notre Dame scored 36 points in the paint. In fact, 28 points came on layups or dunks as Micah Shrewsberry’s team finished 14-of-18 on those attempts at the rim. 

Sophomore Tae Davis led all scorers with 19 points and also pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds as he finished an impressive 8-of-11 from the floor.

The Indianapolis native now has scored in double figures in the last three games and there is a confidence brewing in the 6-foot-9 forward, which comes from knowing his head coach believes in him. 

“I think Coach giving me the opportunity to believe in me and my teammates believing in me as well,” Davis said of his rise in confidence. “I’m just trying to play hard. That’s our motto. Just play hard for each other.” 

“It means the world to all of us. Coach believes in all of us to do whatever we can do on the court.”

Shrewsberry isn’t surprised to see Davis ascend as he saw what his forward could do dating back to high school. 

“He’s just getting more and more confident as it goes,” explained Shrewsberry. “I kind of expected this from him. I didn’t know when, but I recruited him in high school as he was a freshman and sophomore before Purdue. 

“This is kind of who he was. He plays with the ball in his hands. He’s a guard - he’s a tall guard and he’s getting good at attacking closeouts, reading things and getting the rim. The next stage for him is to develop his playmaking even more. He’s playing really confident and we have to keep him here.” 

Now, the win wasn’t always pretty as Western Michigan made several runs in each half, but the Irish offense answered the bell. 

Braeden Shrewsberry hit back-to-back threes in the first half to jumpstart the Irish while Julian Roper II hit a three at the buzzer to put the Irish up 40-34 at the half after a quick 7-0 run by the Broncos. 

Titus Wright led Western Michigan with 14 points and six rebounds.

In the second half, it was freshman point guard Markus Burton who turned up the heat to put Western Michigan away as he scored 12 second half points on his way to finishing the night with 17 points and and six assists. 

The defensive lapses weren’t too much of a concern for Shrewsberry as he felt that might happen due to an emphasis on offense in practice the last few days.

“I didn’t feel like we played great defensively tonight and they scored 65. Miami had 62 and they probably had three pick-sixes where we just threw it to them and they went down and dunked. We’re guarding people, getting people into the right shots we want them to take and we’ve been a really good defensive rebounding team so far. That part there is what we’ve hung our hat on. It’s given us a chance to be in every game except the Auburn game.”

And those practices the last few days that focused on offense were also competitive and led to Notre Dame getting four players into double figures for just the second time all year as Roper added 14 and Shrewsberry finished with 16, which included four treys. 

“I really think it starts in practice,” said Roper. “Our hunger from losing, I thnk everyone hates to lose in that locker room. We knew we could have beat Miami. We just fell short. We wanted to come back and bring it out tonight.” 

Notre Dame forward Kebba Njie struggled on both ends of the floor on Tuesday as he was benched a couple times for poor defensive effort. Offensively, Njie wasn’t much better as he finished the game 1-for-4 with six points and three rebounds. Over the last three games, the 6-foot-10 sophomore is a combined 2-for-18 from the field. 

“I still understand he still has to play with a brace,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s not catching the ball. That’s not who he is. He can catch the ball. He can rebound the ball with two hands, but right now, he’s playing with like one hand and three fingers. He’s not catching it the way he should. 

“Once you struggle, you just get a little down on yourself as well. There’s a delicate balance of keeping them motivated, but also still giving them that belief. We still have to throw the ball to him. When he does catch it, he’s not always getting something, but he drew three fouls. He’s getting somebody out of the game.” 

Notre Dame will hit the road to face a Final Four contender as No. 8 Marquette (6-2) will host the Irish on Saturday at 9:00 PM ET on FOX. 

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