Notre Dame looks to build win streak against Loyola
Alex Carson | Thursday, December 10, 2015
Notre Dame, riding a two-game winning streak, will get one last pre-finals contest Sunday when it welcomes Loyola Chicago to Purcell Pavilion for a 2 p.m. tipoff.
After struggling at the AdvoCare Invitational, the Irish (6-2) have responded well the last two outings, topping Illinois, 84-79, on the road Dec. 2 before returning home for an 86-61 win over Stony Brook on Tuesday night.
In the second half at Illinois, head coach Mike Brey shifted to a zone defense to find success on the defensive end. But in Tuesday’s win, the zone only made a short cameo, with Brey noting the need for his team’s man-to-man defense to improve against Stony Brook.
“We needed to improve defensively man-to-man wise,” Brey said. “Because we couldn’t rely on our man-to-man in Champaign. Now, we did a heck of a job in zone and [Tuesday], for about six or seven possessions, zone gave us good stuff.”
The Ramblers (5-3) enter Sunday’s contest off a home win over Creighton, 68-65, on Saturday. Junior guard Milton Doyle, who started his career at Kansas before transfer to Loyola before playing a game for the Jayhawks, is one of the leaders for the Ramblers in each of the three major statistical categories; Doyle leads the squad with 14.4 points per game and 3.8 assists per game and is second in rebounds with 5.3 per game.
Senior guards Earl Peterson and Devon Turk also average double figures for the Ramblers, who also have wins over Toledo and San Diego this year.
For Notre Dame, the spacing of its top five has been a concern all season long, specifically the dynamic between senior forward Zach Auguste and sophomore forward Bonzie Colson.
“It’s probably a little bit better every week,” Brey said of the spacing. “We’re never gonna look as pretty with those guys, but they do some things on the other end of the floor like rebounding the ball where I’m OK living with not being as aesthetically pleasing as maybe the smaller lineup does.”
Brey said Colson, who has shifted to playing the four a year after serving as Auguste’s backup at the five, has been improving with the added responsibilities of his new position.
“Bonz is getting great with the ball, facing the bucket,” Brey said. “Dribble exchange, you know, ball screening, helping. Both those guys can step out and space the floor.”
Early in the season, sophomore guard Matt Farrell and freshman forward Matt Ryan were the two main options off the bench for Notre Dame. But Brey said junior forward Austin Torres was “on his mind” a couple weeks ago — the Granger native has parlayed that into playing time the last two outings, seeing the floor for four minutes at Illinois and five against Stony Brook.
“I thought Torres gave us great minutes,” Brey said. “Those energy minutes where come in, do some stuff — and he’s always done that. I’ve got a lot of respect for him because he’s not playing 20 minutes, but he does what he’s supposed to do.”
Farrell, who got 20 minutes of playing time against Stony Brook, remains the sixth man for Notre Dame heading into its Loyola clash, and Brey said he likes what he can do with the ball in his hands.
“I think Matt Farrell gives us another off-the-dribble guy,” Brey said. “So when he’s in there with Steve and Demetrius we got three guys that can kind of break you down a little bit.”
While a winter break slate that features a matchup with Indiana on Dec. 19 awaits the Irish, Brey’s players will first have to clear the challenge of finals — and the Irish head coach knows his players are juggling studying with basketball this week.
“It’s a busy academic week, too, you know,” Brey said. “My guys — I don’t know how much attention I’m going to have the next two days, and that’s OK. But hopefully Friday afternoon, I’ll have attention, and we’ll be able to focus on Loyola.”
Tipoff is slated for 2 p.m. Sunday between the Irish and the Ramblers.