Notre Dame looks to cool off hot Milwaukee
Brian Plamondon | Tuesday, November 17, 2015
After opening its season with a convincing victory, No. 18 Notre Dame will stay at home at Purcell Pavilion when it welcomes Milwaukee to town Tuesday night.
Notre Dame (1-0) will look to build off its 87-56 win over St. Francis (Pennsylvania) on the same night that the Irish unveiled their 2015 ACC Championship banner.
Milwaukee (3-0) will try to improve upon its hot start, which included three wins over the weekend in Santa Clara, California, to take home the Cable Car Classic Title.
Although one game isn’t enough to judge how the season will turn out, Irish head coach Mike Brey said he was pleased with his team so far, particularly junior guard and captain Demetrius Jackson. Jackson tallied a career-high 27 points on 10-of-14 shooting against St. Francis.
“He was more aggressive [Friday] than he’d been in practice hunting his stuff, and I love it,” Brey said. “I think we’re going to need him to do that. Great start for him, just kind of keep growing his confidence as our quarterback.”
Despite Jackson’s strong play Friday, Brey was quick to point out the importance of having sophomore guard Matt Farrell so that the Irish can play Jackson at multiple spots on the floor. Farrell, who figures to be the team’s sixth man this year after serving in a reserve role last season, scored 7 points in 17 minutes off the bench.
“Matt Farrell coming in helps [Jackson] though — he can slide off the ball and Matt can handle the ball,” Brey said. “I thought Matt gave us really good minutes again in that role.”
While players like Farrell and two freshmen, forward Matt Ryan and guard Rex Pflueger, try to find their roles on the team, Brey confirmed that freshman forward Elijah Burns will be on the five-year plan due to nagging injuries and a crowded depth chart.
“I think he has a really bright future, but let’s get him healthy,” Brey said. “Also, there’s a logjam of big guys if you look out there. We got some big guys stacked on each other. … He doesn’t need any more surgery — just a micro fracture — just needs time to heal.”
Even without Burns in the fold, the Irish still have a deep contingent of players jockeying for playing time. Despite 12 players seeing minutes Friday, Brey said he’s starting to see what his team’s identity is.
“I’ve gotten on our front line guys to really go to the boards — to get to the offensive board,” Brey said. “And we have emphasized that more.
“… When [senior forward] Zach [Auguste] did that, he’s fabulous. And that’s what he did the last six weeks of the season last year. He was on the offensive board like a maniac. And now he knows when he gets fouled, gets three-point plays on put-backs, he’s more apt to do it.”
Auguste, who totaled 14 rebounds Friday, will be matched up in the post with Milwaukee senior forward Matt Tiby, a preseason All-Horizon League selection. So far this season, Tiby is averaging 13 points per game to go along with eight rebounds, consistent with his numbers last season. Tiby leads a two-pronged Panther attack along with junior forward Austin Arians (15.3 points per game), who sat out last season but was the leading scorer for Milwaukee in their most recent NCAA Tournament game, a 2014 loss to Villanova.
Although Notre Dame opened as a 13-point favorite, Jackson said early in the season it is always hard going against teams with which the Irish are not familiar, but he trusts their preparation.
“Our coaches do a great job of letting us know what [each team is] going to be running on offense, how they’re going to play defense, their tendencies,” Jackson said. “They do a great job of educating us. But at the same time, we need to go out there and play, be smart, and stay together.”
Notre Dame will look to halt Milwaukee’s hot start when it welcomes the Panthers to Purcell Pavilion on Tuesday at 7 p.m.