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Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook: 11/28

November 28, 2017
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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey was in good spirits on Tuesday as his No. 5 ranked Irish won the Maui Invitational last week and will head to No. 3 Michigan State on Thursday in a battle between Top 5 programs. 

On back-to-back Top 10 games:
“It’s amazing how our schedule lined up. It’s great for our resumé and strength of schedule. We have played six games and only played at home twice. If you extend through Indiana, I can’t believe any other Top 25 team has been away from their building as much. 

“It wasn’t completely by design to be on the road more when I saw how our schedule and with the NCAA committee talking about road wins being more heavily weighed, it could really be perfect timing for us if we can get wins away from our building.” 

On playing big games: 
“It’s great to be challenged. Our veteran group wants to play big games. It doesn’t get much bigger than this against a great opponent. We went lighter yesterday, but we’ll get back into it today. I have a feeling we’ll be really focused.” 

 On Maui Invitational providing momentum: 
“There’s confidence playing away from our building. Wichita State fans made it a loud building. Our fans were great, but we’ve played well away from our building. This atmosphere will be as good as anyone we’ve played in from what I understand.

“The only time I’ve been in the arena was to see Tory Jackson win a State Championship. I’ve never been in it. I have certainly heard about it and seen it on TV. They get it going, and it’s a great test of our road demeanor up there.” 

On Michigan State:
“It’s a little similar to the Wichita State preparation. They are Wichita State on steroids. They are barreling down on you on offense, and they are all over the backboard. They guard the heck out of you in the half court. That’s what we faced in Maui, but you’re dealing with a home atmosphere. 

“The biggest fear is transition defense. They really get down the floor quick. We haven’t been tested in our transition defense. We have a lot of work to do on that the next two days.” 

On defense in Maui: 
“I thought a key was Bonzie. I’m proud of him. People come after him with doubles and front him. He set the tone on the backboard and defending for us in the LSU game. He knew it was going to come around to him. Teams have to get tired defensively before we get him in spots we want to get him in. 

“I was pleased with how we played on both ends of the floor. It’s one of those where you’re walking off the court wondering if we would play this well the rest of the season. It was something to build on.” 

Keys to beat Michigan State:
“Transition defense. They run more on makes than they do on misses. Big guys that sprint the floor and they have fresh big guys in there all the time. 

“Rebounding the ball. Can we keep it to one and done? We were able to do that against some athletic ability with LSU and Wichita State. I’m encouraged, but it will be a heck of a challenge with all the size they have. 

“Offensively, we had a hard time figuring out what to do offensively against a great defensive team in Wichita State in the first half. How do we get into a better flow offensively? That can help your defense if we’re flowing a bit better on the offensive end.” 

On senior Martinas Geben:
“The whole tournament was huge. He’s a great young man, and he’s been a team guy. He’s been in with both feet. He deserves to have really good stuff. He should be one confident guy heading up to Michigan State. 

“The way he and Bonzie were playing physically in the second half last Wednesday was really encouraging. They were physical in the post and rebounding. He’s in a great frame of mind, and we’re going to need that body on Thursday.”

On Top 5 ranking: 
“These days with public relations, marketing and recruiting, anytime you can be ranked and that ticker scrolls across 24 hours a day, it’s a good thing. Certainly to be in the Top 5 is really powerful. 

“The combination of how we played against LSU and then what we did against Wichita State in the second half had us jump like that. It’s a focused group. This is an older group, and they expect a lot of themselves.” 

On Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo:
“He’s a great guy and a great friend. We got our coaching jobs the same year. He was moved up at Michigan State the same year I was hired by Delaware. I have the ultimate respect for him. They have an identity, and they stay true to it every year. 

“I got to know him and work closely with him on the NABC board. He’s just one of the good guys in the profession.” 

On ability to play from behind:

“I’ve always talked about it being a long game. Even our first game of the year, DePaul hung around, but if we stay true to what we do for 40 minutes, we’re going to be in it. Wichita State was the example of that because we only led for 22 seconds. 

“I’m really pleased with how our group has understood that and stayed in character. You hope over 40 minutes that puts you in game situations on the road.” 

On big man rotation:
“I was freely throwing a lot of those big guys in there and rotating them through. Of course, (Austin) Torres wasn’t available for a while. I wanted John (Mooney) and Elijah (Burns) to feel that I believed in them. Getting them in the game and playing them in the first half. To have Austin back, a veteran body helps us too. 

“At times, we’re searching for a rotation. I have all kinds of options on that front line. One of the interesting things with our rotations is that we substitute for Martinas at first. Then you go down the line with other big guys because Martinas in playing so well I may need to get him back in there after a quick rest.

“It might be a night to night feel each game.” 

On being the only game on in primetime on Thursday: 
“It’s a great matchup. You have two player of the year candidates and two programs that know who they are and play to their strengths. It’s awesome that everyone will be watching. I have to believe that will be a highly tuned in game.”

On freshman forward DJ Harvey:
“He’s not over-dribbling. I thought he handled the ball a little too much in high school like a lot of high school guys. He’s learned to use screens and cut. The area where I’ve always thought he was good and he’s bought into getting into a defensive stance. He can get up and rebound around the rim.

“I think he’s found how to simplify his game. It was a tug of war in June. Every time he dribbled between his legs, I told him that was AAU. He should never dribble between his legs in college.” 

Brey continued.

“I’ve been hard on him. I was hard on him in the preseason when he hasn’t been focused when he’s over-dribbled or been sloppy. When you’re the only freshman, you stand out a bit. I’ve hard on him because we need him. The other guys have been the ones to hug him and teach him. 

“He got on the bus on Wednesday and gave me a high-five. He told me it was his first championship in basketball. As good as DeMatha was, they didn’t win the league in four years, and it was something that bothered him. I thought it was another step in growth for him. We really need him.” 

On guard Rex Pflueger at the end of Wichita State:
“The guy in unbelievable. He’s one of the great winners, ever. If you look at him, I love him taking the ball out of bounds. He’s better than Sam Darnold if you ask him from little league. I’ve never seen a guy kind of in a defensive stance with the ball. He watches the first two options and delivers, and of course, he gets his hand on the ball, so they don’t even get an attempt off.

“He knows who he is. He did a good job in the second half getting some of his mid-range stuff instead of hunting his three. He’s just one of those guys like Steve Vasturia to have him out of the game. When he’s not in the game, I get a little fidgety.” 

On forward John Mooney:
“He’s a stretch four because he can make that jump shot. He gives us spacing as a second big guy. He has a great bounce off the floor and can rebound in traffic. He’s still learning how to talk more.

“He’s 255 and can rebound. He can make an open shot. One area I’d love to see him and Elijah get better at is making that backdoor pass from up top. That’s where I want those guys to get better. Today and tomorrow in practice, I told Coach (Ryan) Humphrey to do some catching and handling in that spot. Martina's stuff is a clinic, and he’s fabulous up there. 

“Right now, I love their energy, physicality, and toughness. Throw them in and fly around.”


 

 
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