Men’s Basketball: Irish host Santa Clara, Army
Mike Monaco | Thursday, November 21, 2013
After losing Sunday for the first time at home during the month of November in the Mike Brey era, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion on Friday night to square off with Santa Clara. Notre Dame will close out the weekend at home against Army on Sunday.
Notre Dame (2-1) fell to Indiana State, 83-70, on Sunday afternoon, dropping them out of the AP top 25. The loss snapped a 48-game home winning streak in November with Brey at the helm of the Irish program. Notre Dame, which hadn’t trailed at any point in its first two games of the season, only led the Sycamores (2-1) for three minutes and 37 seconds.
“I think your sense of urgency goes up when you get beat like that,” Brey said. “I think we’ve got guys that have been around a while and we’ve got guys that have taken punches before. These veterans have taken punches. One of the things you talk about on Monday is what is our bounce-back mode? We’ve never had to really deal with it in November. But now we do. Let’s use it as a teaching moment to see how we respond.”
The Irish responded this week with a pair of early-morning workouts – the first coming at 6:30 a.m. on Monday. Brey said he has tried to be less vocal and let the players’ leadership – including that of captains senior guard Eric Atkins and junior guard/forward Pat Connaughton, as well as other upperclassmen – take over.
“What I like this week is we’ve played pissed off, which is a good trait to have after a loss,” Brey said.
The Broncos (2-1) come to town following an 86-73 loss to Cal State Fullerton on Saturday. Through three games, Santa Clara has averaged 82 points and nearly 20 3-point attempts per contest.
“That 3-point line is the great equalizer in this game,” Brey said. “Sunday was a great example where we couldn’t control it and we got our backsides beat. Santa Clara is scoring the basketball. If you look, they’re scoring in the 80s. That scares me.”
Freshman guard Jared Brownridge leads Santa Clara in scoring at 20.3 points per game. Brownridge, who hails from Auroura, Ill., also leads the team in minutes, while shooting at an efficient 52.9 percent clip. From beyond the arc, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder is 11-for-23.
“They’ve got guys that can make shots. So if it’s one of those nights, we have to be aware of the arc,” Brey said. “Sometimes your help-side defense suffers because you’re so aware of the arc. We’re going to have to pay attention to detail on 3-point shooters. I thought we were a step slow challenging 3-point shooters, even early in the game [Sunday].”
Offensively, Brey said the Irish need to cultivate more of an interior presence. Graduate student center Garrick Sherman and graduate student forward Tom Knight combined to play 24 minutes and score four points against the Sycamores. Reserve sophomore forwards Zach Auguste and Austin Burgett notched six and three points, respectively.
“We have to have a post presence,” Brey said. “We didn’t get enough of a consistent one from any of our bigs on Sunday. But we can’t abandon it. We have to keep coming back because throwing it down there is part of how we play basketball.”
Brey said he has been pleased with the responses from Sherman and Knight during the week in practice.
“They’ve been pretty good and played with a little edge about them that I don’t think you could create without a loss,” Brey said. “They need to get started on Friday night and not look over at the bench, not look over at me. They can’t be under the quick hook thing.”
Brey added the best way for the big men to garner more minutes is to rebound effectively. The Irish have an average rebounding margin of +2.7 through the first three games.
Brey also said he still doesn’t know who will start in the frontcourt Friday night. As a team, all 10 players in the rotation will get a shot, he said, thought not necessarily every night.
Army (1-3) is coming off back-to-back losses to Delaware and NJIT. Sophomore guard/forward Kyle Wilson is the only Black Knight scoring in double figures. The reigning Patriot League Rookie of the Year averages 17.5 points per game.
Notre Dame hosts Santa Clara at Purcell Pavilion on Friday at 9 p.m. and returns to square off against Army on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Contact Mike Monaco at [email protected]