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Notre Dame Basketball

Sad Day, Bad Day In South Bend, Notre Dame Falls to The Citadel 65-45

December 19, 2023

There have been some dark days in Purcell Pavilion in recent years, but Tuesday was perhaps the saddest as The Citadel (7-5) took the soul from Notre Dame (4-7) 65-45. 

The night started like many nights for the Irish as Micah Shrewsberry’s team struggled to score in the first half, yet played just good enough defense to remain in the game. 

In fact, Notre Dame would do something it hadn’t done much of all year by starting the second half with a 6-0 run out of the gate to take a 35-32 lead with 17:52 remaining in the game. 

The Citadel didn’t play great basketball as the Bulldogs would control the next eight minutes of the game outscoring the Irish 19-2 to take a commanding 51-37 lead.

Did it surprise Shrewsberry? No, which might be even more of a concern as his team trailed for 30:38 in the loss. 

“This game was over before we even got there,” Shrewsberry stated. “We had no energy at shoot around. We didn’t have any energy at practice. It’s who this team has been. 

“We talk about how you finish, but one play kind of changes everything. I think we’re up three and we run a play, Tae (Davis) rolls, catches it and turns it over. He’s at the rim and Kebba (Njie) is at the rim open, we turn it over, they go down and get fouled and get free throws. Next possession, Markus (Burton) comes down and turns it over. They go down, get fouled and get free throws. There’s the game. The game flips right there with turnovers like that.” 

Basketball is a game of runs and Notre Dame has failed to give any second half punches back. 

Notre Dame shot an incredible 19.4 percent from the field in the final 20 minutes, but also went 0-for-15 from three-point range and for good measure, the Irish hit just 4-of-9 free throws. 

“Our emotional intelligence is not very good,” said Shrewsberry. “We don’t handle failure well at all. When failure happens, we collapse. That’s on me as a coach. I have to find a way for us to be better. I have to change my approach.”

When asked about his son, Braeden, being the three-point specialist after going 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-6 from deep, Shrewsberry had a fiery response. 

“No, he’s not,” Shrewsberry said. “He’s shooting 20-something percent from three. He’s got to play better. He has to guard some people. He’s got to have some toughness or he’s going to be sitting next to me - him and Tae and Kebba. The same way. They’re playing with zero effort right now.”

Shrewsberry, who benched several starters with just under eight minutes to play, admitted he should have gone to his walk-ons earlier in the game. 

And he wasn’t done. 

“I don't know what’s going to happen on Friday, but if people don’t compete, then you’re going to see more walk-ons earlier than this,” explained Shrewsberry. “We’re building a culture and that ain’t it. That’s not the culture we’re trying to build.

“A message needs to be sent to some of these guys. If you don’t play hard, then you sit and rot on the bench. I’ll find a way - I’ll go and talk to people in compliance and I’ll help you transfer. This culture is getting built the right way and if you ain’t a part of it, you’re out. I don’t care.”

Shrewsberry watched his team shoot 26.6 percent from the field, but to make matters worse, Elijah Morgan, a former Notre Dame walk-on, led The Citadel with 19 points, including hitting 5-of-7 from three-point range. 

“These dudes get up in the morning and they march,” Shrewsberry said of The Citadel. “They got some toughness to them. We don’t have toughness. We wilted right away. Again, that starts with me. I have to change my approach. We’ll have a different approach and we’ll see what happens.” 

Following Saturday’s loss to Georgetown, Shrewsberry said he team lacked discipline and didn’t listen. 

That carried over three days later as he warned his team that an upset was possible 

“My message before the game was this is the Christmas season and you see a lot of people mail it in early before Christmas and people come in here and get beat,” stated Shrewsberry. “Maybe I was forecasting what was going to happen. They don’t believe what I say.” 

The lone bright spot of the night was the play of JR Konieczny, who finished the game with 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

Konieczny’s effort was above his peers and he was rewarded with 32 minutes.

And in a game where Shrewsberry didn’t hold back, Notre Dame’s head coach made sure to give Konieczny praise for his efforts. 

”JR is doing really good stuff,” Shrewsberry explained. “He’s playing really hard. He has to take good shots all the time, so he can be more efficient. He was forcing it late because we were down big and he’s trying to make stuff happen. He was 7-for-18 for 18 points. That’s what our defense is trying to do to other people.

“That’s not on him. Everybody else started to sit on the sideline and he’s playing with four walk-ons. I appreciate his effort. He’s coming every single day competing and fighting. That’s all you can ask for from him.” 

Notre Dame will host Marist (7-2) on Friday night at 8:00 PM and the Red Foxes are a top 10 team in defense. 

Shrewsberry admitted he wasn’t concerned about the outcome as he’s more focused on his team getting out of rock bottom. 

“We’ll get back in here early tomorrow,” said Shrewsberry. “We’re going to spend some time in here practicing. I don’t care about this game on Friday. I can tell you that right now. This is about our team getting better. This is about our team finding some kind of focus - having some kind of competitive balance. It doesn’t matter who you play. Everybody can beat you.” 

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