Notre Dame prepares to take on Stony Brook
Marek Mazurek | Monday, December 7, 2015
The Irish return to action Tuesday against Stony Brook after an on-the-road win over Illinois on Wednesday.
Notre Dame (5-2) and Stony Brook (4-2) will meet for the third time in the two programs’ histories, with the Irish having won the previous two meetings. Notre Dame stands 15-0 against America East teams, including one 83-57 win this season over UMass Lowell on Nov. 21. Despite the impressive record against America East foes, Irish head coach Mike Brey said his team will not overlook the Seawolves.
“The team we play [today] is really good,” Brey said. “Stony Brook is Monmouth, let me put it that way.”
Stony Brook boasts an offense averaging 83.2 points per game. Four Stony Brook players are averaging more than 10 points per game, led by senior forward Jameel Warney who is averaging 18.2 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. The Seawolves head to Purcell Pavilion after off a 91-77 win at home against Princeton on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame is attempting to right the ship after losing two out of three games in the AdvoCare Invitational tournament over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Irish rebounded with Wednesday’s 84-79 victory over the Illini in the team’s first true road game of the year.
Junior guards Demetrius Jackson and Steve Vasturia led the Irish with 21 points apiece against Illinois. Senior forward Zach Auguste scored 16 points and matched a career-high 14 rebounds to earn his fifth double-double of the season and 10th of his career, while junior forward V.J. Beachem chipped in nine points.
The Irish overcame an eight-point halftime deficit to beat the Illini, and Brey said the adversity of these recent close games early in the year will help the Irish find their identity as the season progresses.
“We were in game situations three nights, we were in position against I think three pretty darn good teams,” Brey said. “I love the fact that we got into those situations.
“Now how do we close them out? How do we do a better job with a key defensive stop, which I think was the number on thing to talk about. And then how do we help ourselves offensively when we need a key possession? That’s still something that’s developing with us.”
Auguste echoed Brey’s point on the importance of defense and said executing in key situations is something the team needs to improve.
“We have to be able to execute down the stretch. We have to have a defensive presence.
“We have to be resilient in that case, and we hadn’t displayed that this past week so we have to build off that.”
Brey also touched on the Beachem’s emergence as a key factor for the Irish going forward. The junior is averaging career-highs of 12 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, but Brey said Beachem’s defense has seen the most improvement.
“[Beachem is] in a stance, being alert,” Brey said. “Team defense, sliding, he used to get beat off the dribble so easy. He stays in front of guys now. He certainly uses his length to get out. He talks better defensively. I think that’s an area where he’s made great progress.
“He’s a better passer when he takes a couple dribbles and makes a play. I’m not as nervous as I was before. Just getting better, getting more confident.”
With that growing confidence, Brey and the Irish tip off at 9 p.m. Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.