Irish win final exhibition game of season against St. Norbert
Nate Moller | Wednesday, November 10, 2021
The Notre Dame men’s basketball team won its final exhibition game of the season this last weekend, beating Division III St. Norbert college by a score of 78-44 at Purcell Pavilion.
The Irish shot a fantastic 16 of 39 on three-point field goals (41%) and recorded 22 assists on 29 made field goals to earn the victory on Friday night.
Head coach Mike Brey said he was pleased with his team’s ability to share the ball.
“I want to keep emphasizing sharing the ball like this,” Brey said. “[Graduate student forward] Paul [Atkinson Jr.] had a couple of those where he’s kicking out of the post and there’s one more pass. We are swinging it around the horn and just to keep selling out on selfishness because we do have a lot of guys that can make a shot. If we just keep moving the ball, I think we are going to get it.”
Atkinson and senior guard Trey Wertz led the Irish in scoring with 15 points apiece. All of Wertz’s points came off of the three point field goal on a five-for-seven performance.
Atkinson was a huge addition to the Irish in the graduate student transfer portal, and Brey said he believes his impact going forward will be astronomical.
“That was such a key get for us. To plug him and he’s on the back board, he’s got defensive quick hands, he’s just really good,” Brey said. “He takes some pressure off because they know if they throw it in and move a little bit, he’s going to get a clean one. And if it’s one-on-one, he’s crafty and quick and I think he’s going to score down there and get fouled.”
Senior forward Nate Laszewski led the Irish with 15 boards on the day. Brey praised Laszewski’s rebounding ability, which he thought helped his team get down the court quicker in transition.
“I thought Nate rebounded and we got our outlets deeper,” Brey said. “Instead of our guards coming back and getting tighter, we got down the court a little bit.”
Despite only leading by a score of 12-8 early in the game, the Irish were able to earn a 32-16 lead in the first half behind three consecutive three pointers from Wertz. Wertz and senior guard Prentiss Hubb combined to start the game a perfect six of six from beyond the arc to give the Irish an early lead. The Irish would take a comfortable 39-22 lead into the locker room at halftime.
The Irish then put St. Nortbert away early in the second half after an eight point burst at the 15 minute mark in the half increased the lead to 52-28.
Brey primarily used a seven man rotation of Hubb, Laszewski, Atkinson, senior guard Cormac Ryan, senior guard Dane Goodwin, Wertz and freshman guard Blake Wesley throughout most of the game.
“I wanted to get a feel for how we are going to rotate those seven guys,” Brey said.
Brey said he plans to experiment with smaller lineups going forward this season, as he believes his team can be successful that way.
“We do like to go smaller. We are hard to guard that way,” Brey said. “It is a challenge defensive rebounding, but if we are more efficient offensively, it may not matter. You have those spurts where you get going and they’re chasing us and we are really efficient.”
Wesley finished this game 1 of 9 from the field for only three points, but Brey is confident that the freshman will improve going forward.
“He kind of came back to Earth a little bit tonight. He maybe forced a little bit and settled for a three early,” Brey said. “The one thing he does is share the ball. And that’s why when there’s six old guys and he comes in, they embrace him and give him some shots and then he really works defensively. He’s such a pleasure to coach because he’s pure and he’s just learning.”
Brey said he is excited about his team’s depth going forward, and he believes that sophomore forward Elijah Taylor and freshman guard J. R. Konieczny can contribute to his team’s success as well beyond the top seven.
“We have more depth and more guys and everybody is healthy,” Brey said.
The coach said he is open to playing Taylor and Konieczny more down the road.
“You have to keep your mind open to it,” Brey said. “I think they have to keep working and be ready.”
Brey would love to give Konieczny more experience with some of the older players on the team.
“Blake [Wesley] has gotten those reps with the older guys, and it has really helped him,” Brey said. “I want to get J. R. more of that with Prentiss, Cormac and Nate because they really help our young guys.”
Brey also suggested that his team will show some zone defense going forward but will primarily stick to man-to-man.
“We can change defenses too. I think we will play some zone. You saw a little bit of our 1-3-1,” Brey said. “I hate to say zone because we are really trying to match up more. It helps us save our legs sometimes and change the rhythm of the other team’s offense.”
The Irish will open their season Saturday at Purcell Pavilion against Cal State Northridge. Tip off will be at noon and can be viewed on ACC Network Extra.