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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame to open regular season at home against UIC

| Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Notre Dame will begin its 2018-19 regular-season campaign Tuesday evening inside Purcell Pavilion by facing off against University Illinois-Chicago (UIC) as part of the 2018 Gotham Classic.

This will be the first-ever matchup between the Flames and the Irish, and it is the beginning of a seven-consecutive home game stretch for Notre Dame. The Irish are currently riding an eight-game win streak during in-season tournaments, having claimed back-to-back in-season tournament titles by way of the 2016 Legends Classic and the 2017 Maui Invitational.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior guard Rex Pflueger guards the ball carrier during Notre Dame’s 76-54 win over Central State on Nov. 1 inside Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish wrapped up their preseason with a 76-45 win over Central State on Thursday night at Purcell Pavilion. Junior guard T.J. Gibbs scored a team-high 17 points, while junior forward John Mooney and freshman guard Dane Goodwin added 11 and 10 points, respectively. Irish head coach Mike Brey commented on how key Mooney — who found an increased role last season while Bonzie Colson was injured — will be for the development of the team this season.

“He needs to keep getting confident,” Brey said. “He can stretch the floor and shoot it, but he does some other stuff too. He’s athletic around the bucket, when he rolls off of ball screens he can finish in traffic physically, he’s been making his free throws — which was a struggle for him last year … but when we throw it to him in the low post I want him to be a little more confident to make a move and score. We need somebody down there to try and do that [because] we don’t really have any of that right now … we need him to take the next step.”

With Colson, Martinis Geben and Austin Torres all graduated from the forward position, the Irish will be largely unproven in the interior this season. The Irish still managed to out rebound the Marauders 48-35 Thursday night, and Brey commented that it will be a team effort to crash the boards to rebound the ball this season.

“I think we’re going to have to do it by committee and as a group,” Brey said. “I don’t know if there’s going to be one guy out there and we’ll say ‘wow, he can get us double-figure rebounds.’ I’ll say this: [John] Mooney and Elijah [Burns] have led us up there. D.J. Harvey is capable of 7-8 rebounds in a game. I’m not sure if there’s going to be one guy that’s swallowing it — it’ll be team rebounding.”

One of those contributors will be sophomore forward D.J. Harvey, who contributed nine points and eight rebounds against Central State. After suffering a microfracture in his knee last January that essentially knocked him out for the rest of the season, Harvey has worked himself back into game form over the summer, impressing Brey in the process and aiming once again to become a key piece in the Irish lineup.

“I give a lot of credit to him, and how he worked on his rehab plan since he was given the green light to go. I give a lot of credit to [strength and conditioning coaches] Skip Meyer and Tony Rolinski — not only with [Harvey] but also with Prentiss [Hubb],” Brey said. “Those two guys did not play in the summer and they were in a very intense rehabilitation program. … I’ve been really impressed with how he’s come back.

“[Harvey] was a starter. He was in the midst of a long starting string when he went down, and probably would’ve been a double-figure scorer for us. So yeah, he’s a little more of a veteran, he’s a little more of a gifted guy that can go get a shot, he’s always been a great defensive rebounder, and we need him to continue to do that.”

With a young team and players coming back from injury, Brey realizes that the journey will be a process, and often encourages his high-strung players — especially his five freshmen — to embrace the highs and lows that come with playing basketball.

“They’re very hard on themselves when they make mistakes. They are very intense and their bar is high. I try to get them onto the next play and not to dwell on it, and to enjoy the journey a little bit. They’re high-level, want-it-bad guys, even as young guys,” Brey said.

The Irish will face their first test against UIC. Coached by Steve McClain, the Flames received four first-place votes and were selected third overall in the Horizon League preseason poll. UIC finished in that very position last season, recording 12 wins in conference play and 20 on the season. Junior guards Marcus Ottey (First Team) and Tarkus Ferguson (Second Team) were named to the Preseason All-Horizon League teams. Ottey led UIC in scoring during conference play last season with 14.6 points per game, while Ferguson led the Horizon League in assists during conference play for the second time in as many seasons with 5.9 per game.

Both the Flames and the Irish will look to start their seasons in the win column Tuesday evening. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

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About Joe Everett

Joe is a senior PLS major and hails from the thriving metropolis of South Bend, IN. In addition to formerly serving as Sports Editor at The Observer, Joe is a RA in Stanford Hall and a past champion of the Observer's Fantasy Football league.

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