Notre Dame prepares for Radford as Gotham Classic continues
Notre Dame will look to continue its strong start to the season this Wednesday when the team continues action in the 2018 Gotham Classic, this time against Radford. Both the Irish and Highlanders sit at 2-0 on the season and 1-0 in this tournament as they square off for the first time in program history.
Notre Dame (2-0) began its work in the Gotham Classic last Tuesday when it faced off against University of Illinois-Chicago. The team struggled offensively throughout the night as the Irish shot only 35.5 percent from the field, but they made up for it by getting to the free throw line often and making it count. In the first half alone, during which the Irish built a 23-point lead, they shot 23-of-24 from the charity stripe and finished the night 36-of-38 in what was an impressive display at the line. Notre Dame took the game 84-67, with five separate players in double digits scoring wise before preparing for a non-tournament matchup against Chicago State this past Thursday.
Against the Cougars, it was senior forward Elijah Burns who had a career night to lead the Irish with 15 points en route to an 89-62 victory. The flow of the game was an adjustment for Notre Dame from two nights before, as Chicago State was able to keep the Notre Dame lead to just five at halftime before the Irish opened things up in the second half, leading by as many as 32 points with four minutes to play. Again, the Notre Dame offense was balanced with four double digit scorers, and Irish head coach Mike Brey has already begun to recognize the depth his team has and the rotation possibilities that creates.
“I still think we’ve got a lot of guys to play. We’re not going to start the same group we started the other night and we’re still trying to figure out how to come out of the gate, but I still think we’ve got nine or 10 guys you’ve got to get in there,” Brey said. “I think it has to play itself out … hopefully with this stretch we have, and I told the guys this yesterday, it’s a heck of a nine-day stretch starting with yesterday’s practice through Tuesday’s game next week against Duquesne. I think we’re going to have a much better feel of rotation and who we should start and those type of things after this stretch.”
Despite the hot start, Notre Dame knows better than to look past a team as strong as Radford. The Highlanders (2-0) qualified for the NCAA tournament last year as the 2017-2018 Big South conference champions where, after winning an opening round play-in game against LIU Brooklyn, they eventually lost to Villanova in the Round of 64. This year, they have started the season off strong on offense, particularly with their 3-point shooting, and with a veteran group returning, Brey wants to make sure no one overlooks the opponent.
“Radford’s really good. One of the things I told our guys yesterday, I said Radford went to the NCAA tournament; we did not. They won a game in the NCAA tournament and they’ve got a nucleus of guys back, of old guys who won 23 games, so it’s a heck of a challenge,” Brey said. “Once you start playing real games, you start to create a resume, good or bad. This would be a good win for us at the end of the year if we can get it, but we’ve got our hands full and all I know is they’ve made 30 3s in two games, so they are really firing.”
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday at Purcell Pavillion as the Irish continue to compete in the Gotham Classic — their first-ever full exempt tournament at home.