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Men’s Basketball

Irish defeat Presbyterian for fourth-straight win

| Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Notre Dame faced the Presbyterian Blue Hose at Purcell Pavilion on Monday night seeking their fourth-consecutive win, coming off a 74-64 victory over Marshall on Friday. The Blue Hose’s unique name dates back to the early 1900s when sportswriters would refer to the team as such in reference to the distinctive blue socks they wore with their uniforms. Presbyterian (1-3) was coming off a 22-point loss in their home opener against Morehead State.

The Irish were missing two key contributors in this matchup, as sophomore guard Robby Carmody was ruled out for concussion protocol after an injury he suffered Friday against Marshall, and senior forward John Mooney did not play due to a stomach virus. Carmody is one of the Irish’s main scorers on the second unit, and Mooney has been playing very well to start the season, having been named ACC player of the week earlier Monday.

The Irish survived a scrappy, quick Presbyterian team behind 11 points and 15 rebounds from senior forward Juwan Durham and 13 points and six assists from graduate student forward Rex Plufieger. Head coach Mike Brey had praise for those two in the absence of Mooney and Carmody.

“I thought Juwan Durham, in the absence of [Mooney] was flying around bouncing around more, and I thought Rex Plufieger and [senior guard] T.J. Gibbs just steadied us the whole night,” Brey said.

Emma Farnan | The Observer

Irish senior guard Rex Pflueger drives past a defender during Notre Dame’s 84-63 win over Hampton in the NIT tournament on Mar. 13, 2018.

The Irish began the game on a 7-0 run, started by a three pointer from Gibbs on their first possession. However, Notre Dame started to struggle on offense, and Presbyterian battled its way back to an 11-11 score. Immediately after they tied the game, sophomore forward Nikola Djogo hit a three pointer to give the Irish the lead, and on their next possession, Plfueger followed with a three of his own.

Presybterian continued to stay within striking distance, thanks in part to their prolific three point shooting and quick ball movement that stretched Notre Dame’s defense. They shot 50% from beyond the arc in the first half. A steal and a fast break layup brought the Blue Hose back to within a point just after the under-8 minute timeout. Then, a tough putback layup gave them their first lead of the game.

After a long scoring drought, a steal and layup by Plfueger and a three pointer by sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb gave Notre Dame the lead back. Gibbs hit a layup on the next possession, forcing Presbyterian to call a timeout. Then, Gibbs drilled a buzzer-beating three pointer from the logo to give the Irish a 39-31 halftime lead that sent the crowd into a frenzy.

Notre Dame’s offense opened the second half stagnant, but Presbyterian also had a hard time scoring to start the period. An early Blue Hose layup provided the only points scored for either side in the first four minutes. A Hubb three finally broke the drought for the Irish. Brey talked about the offensive struggles to begin the second stanza.

“We were searching for a little bit,” Brey said. “A lot of stuff runs through [Mooney]. If he’s not scoring it, he’s handling it or dribble exchanging. We were a little lost there at times. We weren’t going to score 75, so can you defend well enough to get out of the building tonight?”

Presbyterian was assessed a flagrant foul after a hard hit on sophomore forward Nate Laszewski, who split the free throws, but Pflueger made a corner three on the extra possession to put the Irish up 11. Brey praised Plufiger’s performance in particular.

“His offensive tempo, he’s not forcing anything, he’s letting the game come to him, he’s always been a great passer, and again tonight he makes plays,” Brey said. “He’s playing like an old dude who just lets the game come to him.”

Presbyterian continued to hang around, and a 6-0 run capped by an acrobatic fast break dunk brought them back to within two points, forcing Brey to take a timeout.

A Laszewski dunk right after the timeout rallied the crowd, but Presbyterian got another offensive rebound then drew a foul and split the free throws to keep it a one possession game. Laszewksi dunked again and Durham blocked a shot on the other end, then scored in the post.

Durham was then fouled and made both free throws to put the Irish up nine points with just over five minutes to play for a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Brey was happy the Irish could win a close game like this one.

“We’ve done some things with game pressure on us in a couple games that we weren’t able to do last year,” he said. “I look at that as progress for us, and a little more belief, and a little more we’re going to get over this hump, and we’re going to finish this thing.”

Brey discussed their upcoming matchup with Toledo on Thursday.

“Let’s build on [Monday], and we’ve got our hands full on Thursday because they’re really good,” Brey said. “They’re really well coached, they’re old, they know who they are, they shoot it. … They’re a big win for us, if we can get it, that’s going to be resume win. I have to rally our fans for Thursday. This is kind of an ACC preparation, they’re really good.”

Toledo (3-1) has a very high scoring offense, as they are averaging nearly 89 points per game, coming off a 112-68 win over Howard, and will test the Irish as their first challenging non-conference opponent. The teams will tip off Thursday at 8:30 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion.

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