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Men’s Basketball

Turnovers, poor defense issues for Notre Dame against Duke

| Thursday, December 17, 2020

It was a rough night for Notre Dame men’s basketball as the Irish fell to the 21st-ranked Blue Devils by a score of 75-65.

In the first four games of the season, the Irish (2-3, 0-1 ACC) were able to jump out to an early lead. That was not the case Wednesday, as they scored only five points over the first six minutes of the game. The Blue Devils (3-2, 1-0 ACC) were able to knock some threes down early, helping them take a 12-5 advantage into the under 16 timeout.

Head coach Mike Brey discussed how falling behind early affected his team.

“It’s exhausting, having to come back and dig back into the game,” Brey said.

Everytime the Irish fought back, the Blue Devils responded. There were multiple times in the game the Irish cut the Duke lead to two possessions, but every time Duke would respond and regain a double-digit lead. Brey credited Duke’s offensive talent for its ability to maintain a lead throughout the game.

“[Duke has] really gifted offensive kids who, every time you thought maybe we had a chance, somebody made a big shot, and I give them credit. They made some big shots and big plays,” Brey said.

Turnovers were a problem for the Irish early on, and they proved a lingering problem throughout the game. Going into the under-8 timeout, the Irish had seven turnovers. They would finish the game with 12 turnovers on the night. Brey acknowledged that turnovers will need to be addressed going forward.

“We don’t have to force stuff,” he said. “This group has learned that when they move together and swing it a little bit, we get something pretty good.”

There also appeared to be a disconnect on the defensive end for the Irish throughout the night, allowing the Blue Devils to shoot 51.7% from the field and 53.3% from beyond the arc. Brey said he was disappointed in his team’s ability to guard the paint — where they ceded 34 more points — especially when Duke drove the basket.

“We had a lot of Duke guys driving us tonight, and we didn’t take our first charge until one minute left in the game,” Brey said. “I’m disappointed in that. I think that’s something we really have to address.”

Rachel Pincus | Notre Dame Athletics
Irish junior guard Prentiss Hubb squares up on his defender during Notre Dame’s 64-63 win over Kentucky on Saturday. So far this season, the Irish are 60th in Division I in turnovers per game, a metric in which they have finished in the top-10 nationally each of the last six seasons. Hubb is coughing the ball up 3.8 times per contest.

One bright spot for the Irish on the night was the play of junior guard Dane Goodwin. Goodwin kept the Irish within striking distance for most of the night and finished with a career-high 25 points, making an outstanding 10 of 12 shots (83.3%) from the field. Brey was impressed with the play of Goodwin, but he acknowledged that the overall guard play will need to improve going forward if the Irish are going to win.

“[Goodwin is] playing really well. He’s been playing great for us and he tried to carry us tonight,” Brey said. “But if [junior guard Prentiss] Hubb and [junior guard Cormac] Ryan can’t get into a rhythm, we’re going to be in trouble.”

Brey also emphasized the importance of using defense to get the offense going.

“I think what I need to help them with is to understand that if they sit down and defend a little better and get something out of transition, they could jumpstart our offense,” he said. “I thought we had disappointing offensive possessions tonight, and it affected us defensively.”

One other good sign for the Irish on Wednesday was the play of junior guard Trey Wertz. Wertz is a transfer from Santa Clara, and he was cleared to play Wednesday following an NCAA ruling that allowed all transfers to play this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wertz explained how he mentally prepared for Wednesday’s game not knowing if he was going to play or not.

“It was definitely tough just to stay mentally ready because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I tried my best to go into it like I was playing even though we didn’t find out until later [Wednesday] afternoon,” Wertz said.

Wertz came off the bench, playing 21 minutes for the Irish. He finished the game with nine points, all of which were scored in the second half. Brey commended Wertz’s play, and he sees him as a big part of the team going forward.

“I thought he really did everything we asked of him and got more comfortable in the second half, and he actually may have been our best defensive guard which is interesting,” Brey said. “I am pleased about him getting minutes tonight and him getting comfortable playing with our uniform on. He’s going to be a big, big part of things moving forward.”

Wertz believes that he can be a versatile player for the Irish going forward.

“I have the ability to guard different positions, and offensively I can play with or without the ball in my hand,” Wertz said. “I think that’s kind of what I bring to the table.”

The schedule will not get any easier for the Irish going forward. They will face Purdue on Saturday in the Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis. Purdue is coming off of a victory over Ohio State — a team the Irish failed to beat last week in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The game will tip off at 2:30 p.m. and can be viewed on ESPN2.

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About Nate Moller

Nate is a junior majoring in chemical engineering. He is originally from a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota and is currently living in Siegfried Hall. Some of his passions include running, cross country skiing, and getting too worked up about Notre Dame and Minnesota sports teams.

Contact Nate