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Men’s Basketball

After an ugly win against High Point, Notre Dame looks to build upon their 2-0 start

| Wednesday, November 17, 2021

The Notre Dame Men’s Basketball team awoke in the second half to pull out an ugly win against Division 1 High Point University of the Big South Conference by a score of 70-61. 

While Notre Dame had three players hit the double-double mark, it was a shaky performance by the Irish, who shot just 19.1% from the three and 36.9% overall as a team. The Irish also only converted 59.8% of their free throws.

When asked by a reporter, when the shots are not falling, what can you do offensively to get going? Senior guard Cormac Ryan responded by stating, “Getting to our drives, getting easy baskets, getting fouled in the paint are some great ideas. We have great shooters on this team and we are going to continue to let it fly, shots will fall.”

To start the game, the Irish had no offensive or defensive game plan. Players were chucking up shots, not finishing in the paint, and leaving their man open. This allowed High Point to have their way in the first half, giving them a 33-32 lead going into halftime. 

However, the Irish would go on an early 13-0 run two minutes into the second half, never looking back. Mainly in thanks to Paul Atkinson, the former Yale forward transfer. 

After a rough start, Atkinson made crucial plays in the paint and finished the game with a double-double (19/10), continuing his hot start to the season. He was also the Irish’s leading scorer.

Reporters asked Atkinson about what he did to put it on himself to score in the second half. He said, “My teammates trust me a lot, and I just took it on my shoulders to try to attack them and get a good shot at the rim.”

On the other hand, Panthers’ guard Jordan Wright exploded in the first half with 14 points, but would later finish the game with just 17 points as their leading scorer. It was a bit of a shocker to see the High Point Panthers start so hot and come out flat in the second half, but a lot of it had to do with Mike Brey’s rotation rallying together.

Mike Brey continued to use the seven-man rotation we have seen this season. Atkinson, Ryan, senior guard Prentiss Hubb, senior forward Nate Laszewski and senior guard Dane Goodwin started, and freshman guard Blake Wesley and junior guard Trey Wertz came off the bench.

As the second half progressed, Notre Dame began to ease themselves back into the lead with fundamental basketball. Ryan and Hubb opened up the court, which allowed them to drive to the hole and lay up the ball or find the Irish big men in the paint. Laszewski and Goodwin also helped by each putting up a double-double. 

Atkinson was asked what the key to the second half was as Notre Dame was able to come alive defensively and put High Point into a scoring drought. However, Ryan responded to this question with enthusiasm saying, “Honestly just being hungry. We came out with a fire and put a couple of defensive possessions together. We have five guys connected together and as [High Point] missed, we started to gain fire and keep it for the rest of the game.”

Last year, Notre Dame struggled defensively and often failed to connect on both ends of the court. “However, this year feels different,” Ryan said, “We knew that was an area of growth last year and rather, it is one of our strengths now, and it’s going to be a weapon for us. It is going to honestly make us a better offensive team too as I said, get stops, get out and run, and it makes it easier, it makes everyone’s life easier.”

While it was not the win most coaches would be satisfied with, it is still a win. Mike Brey knows his team will continue to grow both offensively and defensively. The Irish now improve to 2-0 on the season and are set to take on the Saint Mary’s Gaels of the West Coast Conference on November 22nd in the Maui Invitational Tournament. This is the Irish’s first appearance in the invitational since 2017.

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