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Irish look to maintain momentum against Marshall

| Thursday, November 14, 2019

After two easy wins at home, Notre Dame team will look to maintain that positive momentum when they take on Marshall University on Friday night. 

Notre Dame defeated Howard 79-50 Tuesday night in a game they dominated from start to finish. Head coach Mike Brey was happy about how his team played Tuesday.

“It’s a team you should beat, you should handle, so I’m glad we did that. Hopefully we can do that the rest of the month,” Brey said.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb reaches to block the ball during Notre Dame’s loss to Clemson at Purcell Pavilion on March 6.

The Irish had everything going on offense and were consistently able to find open looks, shooting 51% from the field.  Senior John Mooney led the Irish in scoring with 18 points, while sophomore Dane Goodwin and senior Juwan Durham added 11 points each. As a team, the Irish dominated inside, scoring 46 points in the paint. The Irish have also been rebounding well to start the season, and that trend continued against Howard. Mooney pulled down 16 boards to lead the team, while Durham and graduate student Rex Pflueger contributed five rebounds each.

Brey was especially pleased with Mooney’s performance.

“I don’t care who we’re playing against, he goes and gets 13 to 16 rebounds. How he goes and gets it is really beautiful to watch,” Brey said.

“We’re flowing, we’re confident and we’re going to keep doing that,” Mooney said of the team’s momentum.

After finishing last season as the ACC basement dwellers, the Irish have made major strides in the early stages of this year. Two things Brey has been emphasizing are rebounding and bench scoring, both of which have already improved from last year. Notre Dame’s bench chipped in 28 points in the win against Howard.

“That group that comes off the bench, they give us a nice lift, and they can score a little bit, too,” Brey added.

Marshall is another team Notre Dame is expected to be able to handle. The Thundering Herd (1-1) are coming off a game where they allowed 96 points to Toledo. Toledo shot 51% from the field and 56% from 3-point range, a clip the Irish would be happy to replicate. Marshall’s win, coincidentally, was against Robert Morris, an opponent Notre Dame bested 97-52 on Nov. 9. Goodwin was the main offensive contributor in that matchup, scoring 18 points on 6-8 shooting.

Marshall is led by guards Jerrod West and Taevion Kinsey, who average 20 and 16 points per game respectively. However, the Thundering Herd’s forwards struggle to score and rebound, so the Irish should be able to dominate inside with Mooney and Durham each having big games. The key will be shutting down Marshall’s guards. 

Notre Dame’s frontcourt has been playing well as of late. Sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb has emerged as a major scoring threat this year, leading the team with 14.7 points per game. Senior T.J. Gibbs has continued to build on his strong 2018-19 season, averaging 12.3 points per game, and Plfueger has eased his way back into the rotation after missing almost all of 2018-19 with a knee injury. 

Notre Dame will score a lot of points against Marshall, but the key will be to stop Marshall’s high-scoring guards. Notre Dame’s guards have not been very strong defensively so far, allowing 34 points to UNC freshman phenom Cole Anthony and 21 to Robert Morris guard Josh Williams, but did effectively limit Howard’s guards. 

Overall, though, the Irish should overwhelm Marshall with their size and strength inside, and can continue to work out the flaws in their offense in this matchup.

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