Notre Dame Downs The Mount in Home Opener

After a sluggish first half, the Irish managed to pull away from Mount St. Mary’s and move their record to 2-0 and with an 88-62 victory in Monday’s home opener.

The Mountaineers gave the Irish everything they wanted in the first half and even took the lead in the final five minutes of the half. Notre Dame, however, extended their advantage to eight at the break and used a 14-0 run in the first three minutes of the second half to remove all doubt.

The Irish moved to 3-0 all time vs. the Mount and 18-0 in home openers under Mike Brey.

Thoughts:

– It’s early, but Bonzie Colson continues to prove why he’s the most reliable player in the country. The senior tallied his 25th career double-double with 27 points and 11 rebounds on 11-15 shooting. The Mountaineers are a far cry from the competition he will face come in the ACC or in next week’s Maui Invitational, but if his fade away jumper is falling like it was tonight, he is almost unguardable.

– Colson also recorded three blocks and defected a plethora of passes in the winning effort.

– T.J. Gibbs backed up his career performance from Saturday with a steady outing as the sophomore registered nine points, two assists, and two rebounds. Like most of the Irish, Gibbs’ shot wasn’t falling, but he found ways to manufacture production.

– Gibbs has clearly slimmed down and has a burst that was missing a season ago. He is now better equipped to finish around the bucket and stay in front of driving guards on the defensive end.

– While his shot is not falling, Reg Pflueger continues to find ways to make an impact. The junior tallied a then career-high nine rebounds in Saturday’s win over DePaul and backed that up with a new career-high 10 rebounds Monday. He finished the game with 14 points to earn his first collegiate double-double.

– Notre Dame started out cold by opening 4-15 from the field. The Irish still managed to find ways to score and get to the free throw line, but outside shooting will be a question mark for the Irish until someone steps up as a consistent threat from the outside. Matt Farrell is a tremendous shooter, but he gets most of his opportunities by pulling up in transition. Gibbs was the man to step up Saturday, but he was 0-2 from behind the arc vs. Mount St. Mary’s.

– Unlike in previous years, the Irish will be shooters by committee as opposed to relying on dependable cogs like V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia to deliver from three.

– Farrell finished the game with 12 points and five assists, but was just 5-15 from the field.

– Elijah Burns appears to be getting the nod over John Mooney in the early stages of the season. He is physical, hustles, and a presence in the paint defensively, but he has also developed a outside shot as witnessed with his three-pointer in Monday’s first half. The redshirt sophomore finished the game with seven points and four rebounds.

– Freshman D.J. Harvey tallied six points, three rebounds, and two assists in his Purcell Pavilion debut. He is as physically mature as any freshman Brey has had and is a smooth athlete that can do a little of everything for the Irish.

– Harvey and Pflueger both have the ability to play the undersized four that Brey loves to employ when he downshifts. Both are great ball-handlers and can hold their own on the defensive glass.

– The Mountaineers have been to the NCAA Tournament in two of the last four years and were picked to finish fourth in the preseason NEC poll.

– While they don’t have elite athletes, the Mount plays a pressing and up-and-down style, “Mount Mayhem” as its been dubbed, which is a style the Irish have struggled with. See: West Virginia 2017.

– Mike Brey did a similar stylistic scheduling last season. The Irish faced off against St. Peter’s, a middle of the road team in the MAAC, but they utilize the pack-line defense – a replica of the system Tony Bennett runs at Virginia. The Irish were finally able to get off the UVA schneid in the ACC Tournament last season, so let’s see if this matchup with the Mount pays dividends down the road.

The Irish host Chicago State Thursday at Purcell Pavilion before traveling to Hawaii for next week’s much-anticipated Maui Invitational

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