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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame men’s basketball prepares for tough road test

| Wednesday, December 4, 2019

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team will take on another top 10 opponent on the road Wednesday night when it faces the No. 3 Maryland Terrapins as part of the Big Ten-ACC challenge. After losing their season opener to then-No. 6 North Carolina on the road, the Irish have won six straight matchups at home. 

Irish head Coach Mike Brey noted how much the team has improved since that North Carolina matchup.

Nola Wallace | The Observer

Senior guard Nikola Djogo, senior forward John Mooney, senior guard T.J. Gibbs and graduate student guard Rex Pflueger watch from the sidelines Nov. 21 during 64-62 Notre Dame’s victory over Toledo.

“I think we’ve come leaps and bounds, and I thought we were really good that night,” he said. “We played on a big stage in a tough atmosphere right out of the gate, and we weren’t quite ready to finish, I’d like to see us finish one now.”

Brey also talked about how talented Maryland is. 

“They’re really good,” he said. “They’re on a roll right now, they’re confident. It’s a great opportunity for us.”  

This game is a homecoming for some of the Irish team, as sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb’s hometown is just outside of College Park, and Brey is from Maryland as well. He even grew up rooting for the Terrapins. 

After a 91-66 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson last Tuesday, Brey commented on the improved play at home.

“Home identity. You’ve got to start there,” he said. “Those were six games in 17 days. We had a little bit of everything happen, and we had game pressure on us.” 

However, the Irish now need to go on the road again to face a team that is averaging 81 points per game.

“Going on the road to play these guys, it’s an opportunity for you, it [helps our] strength of schedule,” Brey said. “[We’re] more confident. Our defense will be challenged because [Maryland is] really a gifted offensive team.”

The Terrapins are led by senior guard Anthony Cowan Jr., who is averaging 17.1 points per game. Brey had high praise for Cowan.

“He’s a big time winner. [He] really makes them go,” he said. “[Graduate student guard] Rex [Pflueger] will start on him, but a lot of guys have to guard him, we [might] change defenses to throw him.”

Maryland also boasts a stout defense. In their last game, a 21 point victory over Marquette, the Terrapins limited Marquette guard Markus Howard, college basketball’s leading scorer, to just six points on 1-12 shooting. Brey commented on what the team needs on offense.

“We’re going to have to score,” he said. “If we can’t shoot it solidly from out there, then we’re not going to beat good teams.”

Notre Dame is shooting a solid 42% from three-point range this season.

The Irish’s experience in the front court will be key in this matchup, given Maryland has a relatively young front-court and often plays four-guard lineups. The Irish are led by senior forwards John Mooney and Juwan Durham, who are averaging 14.3 and 8.3 points respectively, to go along with 13 and seven rebounds per game. 

Bench scoring will also be very important for the Irish as sophomore guards Dane Goodwin and Robby Carmody, and sophomore forward Nate Laszewski are all having breakout seasons and provide the Irish with valuable depth. After the win over Fairleigh Dickinson, Brey praised their performance.

“Goodwin and Laszewski coming off the bench and being aggressive are going to be important for us moving forward, so hopefully they are more confident to do it regularly,” he said.

The contest will tip-off at 7:30 p.m. at the Xfinity Center in College Park, Maryland.

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