Notre Dame earns close win over Bellarmine in tune-up game
Observer Sports Staff | Monday, November 4, 2019
The Notre Dame men’s basketball team escaped with a narrow 61-51 victory over Bellarmine University in their second exhibition game Friday night at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Senior forward John Mooney, who finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds, and sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb, who had 18 points and 8 assists, led the Irish.
Bellarmine is consistently ranked as one of the best Division II teams in the country, and next season they will officially make the transition to Division I. For now, though, they have proven they can compete with the nation’s toughest opponents. Before pushing Notre Dame to the brink, they nearly beat No. 5 Louisville in another exhibition last week.
Notre Dame started the game with a 7-0 run, capped with a three-pointer from graduate student guard Rex Pflueger. Pflueger, one of the Irish’s leading scorers two years ago, missed almost the entire 2018-19 season with a knee injury. While he was scoreless in Notre Dame’s first exhibition game against Capital University, he contributed 5 points and 3 steals and played a critical role on defense in holding off Bellarmine’s late run, stealing the ball and scoring a layup on the ensuing fast break with less than a minute left to effectively end the game.
While Bellarmine kept it close for most of the game, they only led one time, 19-18 in the first half. The Irish led by nine at halftime and by as many as 13 in the second half, but the Knights kept clawing back. They cut the lead to 54-51 with just over two minutes left, but Notre Dame then went on a 7-0 run to close the game out.
Notre Dame’s offense has continued its struggles from last season. They shot just 35% from the field and 26% from three. Bellarmine actually outshot them in both categories, but the Irish’s defense was opportunistic, forcing 12 turnovers and blocking seven shots. Senior forward Juwan Durham was a force on defense, blocking five shots and grabbing 13 rebounds. Notre Dame collected 14 offensive boards to Bellarmine’s four and outscored them 15 to nothing on second-chance points. However, as the Notre Dame coaching staff decided to play the game with a regular season-like rotation, Bellarmine outscored Notre Dame’s bench 31-11.
Notre Dame does need to improve its offense heading into the regular season, but its defense did enough to secure the win Friday. They were not challenged in their first exhibition game against Capital, but Bellarmine challenged them with a quick pace and energetic defense. That will be important heading into their first regular season game, which promises to be a tough matchup on the road versus No. 9 North Carolina.
Head coach Mike Brey moved to 60-0 all time in exhibition games with the Irish.