Undefeated ND will take Fort Wayne seriously
R.J. Stempak | Tuesday, December 6, 2016
No. 23 Notre Dame looks to set the mark for best start under head coach Mike Brey this Tuesday against Fort Wayne. The Irish (8-0) will have their hands full at home against the Mastodons (7-2), who are on a six-game winning streak since knocking off then-No. 3 Indiana at the end of November.
Brey said Fort Wayne may be the toughest opponent his team has faced all season.
“I got a game on Tuesday night against a team that has already beaten Indiana, and is very confident,” Brey said. “It would be a resume win for us, because Fort Wayne is probably top-100 RPI. I also think, no disrespect to who we’ve played to date, they may be the best team we’ve played. Given their confidence and frame of mind, and they’ve got some older transfers, they might be the best team we’ve played to date.”
The Mastodons receive offensive production from many players to make up the top offense in the Summit League. Four players average double-digit scoring, led by senior guard Mo Evans, who averages 18.1 points per game. Irish junior guard Matt Farrell said Notre Dame has prepared for Fort Wayne like it would for any high-profile opponent.
“We’re preparing for [Fort Wayne] like an ACC opponent,” Farrell said. “We’ve seen what they’ve done, and we know how they play. They are a really good team, and we are excited to play them. We got to be locked in and focused and ready to go on Tuesday.”
Notre Dame is not without offensive weapons of its own, as junior forward and captain Bonzie Colson was named ACC Player of the Week after putting up 17 points, 14 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game in two wins. Behind Colson’s efforts, the Irish are currently leading the ACC in scoring margin and turnover margin, forcing their opponents to cough up an average of 13.9 turnovers per game.
Looking to stop Fort Wayne’s winning streak, Notre Dame will need to capitalize at the free-throw line, where it leads the nation at 85.8 percent. Fort Wayne is the first game in a difficult stretch for the Irish, who face Villanova and Purdue after Tuesday’s game. Junior forward and captain V.J. Beachem said the stretch is an opportunity for his team, starting with the important matchup on Tuesday.
“It’s a great stretch for us to make a run,” Beachem said. “We got to stay true to ourselves, have a great day of practice tomorrow and take it game-by-game. It’s a great opportunity for us, but we got to take it one game at a time.”
At the end of the day, the only statistic that matters is the win-loss column. The Irish are the only remaining undefeated team in a grueling conference. Brey likes the position his team is in and only hopes to build on it.
“Only one left [undefeated] in the ACC, I know,” Brey said. “We’ll take that and run with it. We’ve really put ourselves in a great position.”
Notre Dame tips off against Fort Wayne at 9 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.