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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame begins 2018-19 campaign with victory over UIC

| Wednesday, November 7, 2018

It couldn’t have gone any better for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team in its season-opening victory over the University of Illinois-Chicago. Even Irish head coach Mike Brey didn’t expect such a fast start.

“I’m pleasantly surprised and pleased, ’cause we were not very good in our scrimmage against Cincinnati, and … we weren’t very good last Thursday in our exhibition,” Brey said.

Emma Farnan | The Observer

Irish freshman guard Robby Carmody looks to pass the ball during Notre Dame’s 76-54 exhibition game win over Central State on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish never trailed in the game, which they won by a final score of 84-67, amassing a 46-23 lead after the first period. In the second half, the lead never dipped below 20 points, and reached a maximum of 35 points. Overall, the only real cause for concern during the game was an injury scare.

In the second half, sophomore forward D.J. Harvey sprinted into the lane to chase an offensive rebound and tripped and fell, holding his leg. The incident was reminiscent of not only the season-ending injury Harvey sustained last year — a microfracture in his knee that required surgery — but also of the multiple other injuries that plagued Notre Dame last season. Irish fans let out an audible collective sigh as Harvey was up within a matter of seconds and slightly limped off the court.

Despite the frightful incident, Brey reported after the game that Harvey is doing better than expected and will be an invaluable component this season.

“Given the procedure and where [Harvey is] at, I’m really pleased,” Brey said. “He was our best player [and] he kept us alive against Cincinnati. He was fabulous. Boy, he can put it on the floor and get to the basket.”

Harvey was a matchup nightmare all night for the Flames. Nobody could stay in front of the 6-foot-6 Maryland native, and he completed a pair of 3-point plays when the defense attempted to prevent his blow-bye. Harvey finished the night with 10 points, six rebounds and a perfect 6-of-6 from the free throw line.

He wasn’t the only productive free-throw shooter on the team, as the first half was saturated with fouls. There were 27 total fouls between both squads in the first half, with 16 on the part of UIC. This led to Notre Dame shooting 23-24 (95.8 percent) from the stripe in the first half. Twenty-three free throws is a Notre Dame record for makes in a half under Brey, and the Irish finished the night 36-38 (94.7 percent) from the line.

“That’s crazy off the charts, that really is,” Brey said of the shooting. “We’ve always been good from there, I think, but I think we can get there more. … With the new rules, you get near a guy, touch, it’s a foul, you’re in the bonus. That still has to be a weapon for us.”

Notre Dame’s other massive advantage was in their bench production. The Irish bench alone matched the Flames in first-half scoring with 23 points, and it finished with 39. It was a concerted effort on the part of the coaching staff to get playing time for multiple guys, Brey said.

“My attitude was, we’re gonna play 10 guys in the first half, and they’ll tell us maybe who plays in the second half,” he said. “I think there’s gonna be nights where … it’s more of an eight-man rotation. But I really want to get 10 guys in in the first half, and evaluate it and see where we’re at.”

Freshman guard Dane Goodwin and freshman forward Nate Laszewski led the reserves with 12 and 10 points, respectively. Laszewski also led the Irish in rebounding with nine. However, the star newcomer was sophomore forward Juwan Durham. Despite a benign six points, the UConn transfer posted a monster tally of six blocked shots, five of which came in the second half. Brey praised his big man’s abilities after the game.

“What a different body type for us. Throw [Durham] in there and he’s big and he’s long,” Brey said. “ … We got three more years with him, and he’s gonna need all three, but there’s a lot to work with.”

A surprising standout was yet another new face, freshman guard Robby Carmody. Carmody was part of the starting lineup, and immediately ignited a spark, drawing a charge in the first few seconds of the game.

“[Carmody is] a downhill, make plays, unafraid guy,” Brey said of the freshman. “Maybe the play that set the tone was the charge [drawn]. Even today, I had second thoughts, and I’m thinking, ‘Maybe we should just start Elijah Burns,’ [but] Robby took advantage of his opportunity.”

Carmody finished with 11 points, and also had two key steals that fueled a 10-2 Notre Dame run in the first half. The combined efforts of the underclassmen, including freshman guard Prentiss Hubb, is not something that’s commonly seen from a Mike Brey team, but he was happy with what he saw.

“Those five new guys, I couldn’t ask more out of them,” he said. “They were ready to compete and play, and they were really good.”

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