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Irish ride Burns, second half energy to victory

| Friday, November 9, 2018

A strong second half, spearheaded by senior forward Elijah Burns, helped Notre Dame to an 89-62 victory over Chicago State on Thursday night, moving the Irish to 2-0 to begin the 2018-19 season.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish freshman guard Prentiss Hubb puts up a shot on a drive to the basket during Notre Dame’s 89-62 win over Chicago State on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.

Hitting three of its first four threes, Notre Dame jumped out to an 11-6 lead in the opening minutes of the game. The Irish continued their hot start by adding an 11-2 run that extended the lead to 22-8 with 12:54 remaining in the first half.

The 14-point lead for the Irish would be short-lived, however, as the Cougars responded with a 14-6 run of their own, trimming the lead to 28-22 with 8:42 remaining in the half. While the Irish would answer with a quick 5-0 run, the Cougars were able to answer within minutes and kept the score within single digits as the first half winded down.

A jumper by Cougars junior Rob Shaw tied the game at 35-all with 1:53 remaining in the half, before a layup by Burns and an open three by freshman forward Nate Laszewski gave the Irish a 40-35 lead heading into the half.

“It was one of those games where you get off to an easy start offensively. You think it’s going to be really easy and you don’t [play] much defensive and [then] they get a little confidence,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said of Notre Dame’s first-half defensive collapse.

“It was a frustrating halftime. It wasn’t an easy halftime. We’re going to have many frustrating halftimes. [So, there’s] going to be some learning going on,” Brey said.

The Irish started the second half with a lineup that subbed in freshman guard Dane Goodwin, Laszewski and Burns on the court. The new lineup for Notre Dame paid dividends, as the Irish — led by Burns — went on a 12-0 run to begin the second half, giving them a 52-35 lead. The stretch was highlighted by an and-one dunk by Burns.

“That’s not the best dunk I’ve had in a game, but I will say it’s probably top tier. It’s always fun to show my athleticism for a little while,” Burns said of his dunk. “I was really fired up. Just trying to be the energy for my team. I knew that was a big play for us to get us going and that kind of let everyone else fall behind and do what we do.”

The Irish never looked back. The lead ballooned to 30 points and the Irish cruised to their second win of the season.

Burns finished the night with a career-high 15 point, ten of which came in the second half.

“I do anything my team needs me to do. [Whether] it’s rebound, talk, defend whatever they need me to do I’m going to contribute,” Burns said of his career night.

“[Burns] brought great energy for us and really got us going. He rebounded the ball spread the floor. He did all of those things for us to be able to win tonight,” Laszewski said.

In his second game, Laszewski once again notched 12 points and four rebounds in his first week playing collegiate basketball.

“It’s been ups and downs, but I think it’s been helpful having all the upperclassmen and my teammates believe in me,” Laszewski said of his first week. “Obviously it’s a huge confidence boost [to make your first shot], but you know even if I miss the first [shot] my teammates let me know the next ones going in.”

The remaining freshman trio of Robby Carmody, Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb finished the game with eight, seven and six points respectively.

Despite the first half struggles, Burns embraced his new leadership role on the young Irish team and kept the team together during halftime.

“We have five young guys. You know they haven’t been in that position before being down. I’ve seen that my whole career here, so I knew it was going to be a long game,” Burns said. “Coach always stresses it would be fine just come out with some energy and we will get back in the game.”

Brey was very impressed with the leadership and energy his senior captain showed throughout the night.

“I’m very impressed with Elijah Burns, because he’s a talker and he’s a positive energy guy. He stood out like a sore thumb and sparked us when we need a voice and an energy guy. I’m thrilled for him because this is new territory for him for him too,” Brey said. “We talk about the freshmen all the time, but Burns is kind of like a new guy because we’re asking him to do more, and he can grow from a night like tonight.”

The Irish will continue their seven-game homestand when they face Radford University next Wednesday. Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. inside Purcell Pavilion.

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