It was “Old Home Day” for the Notre Dame basketball program on Saturday. Irish Head Coach Mike Brey returned to where he got his college head coaching start. University of Delaware head coach, and former ND captain/assistant, Martin Inglesby welcomed his alma mater to the Bob Carpenter Center. The Irish started the difficult week ranked ninth, and represented the highest ranked team to make a visit to Newark, Delaware in Blue Hens history.
Notre Dame aspires to be a top-tier ACC squad. Delaware is hoping to build success in the CAA. Brey did his former player, assistant, and good friend a solid bringing his Irish to town. It was Delaware’s first sell-out of the season, and there was definitely a buzz in the 5,000 seat facility. Big time teams rarely go on the road for games like this, and for the first fifteen minutes of Saturday’s contest, you could see why.
Vegas had the Irish as 14 point favorites, and Ken Pomeroy’s model gave the Irish an 88% chance at victory. Much like Tuesday, the Irish were gigantic favorites on paper. Much like Tuesday, the paper didn’t seem to matter. Coming off an unfortunate loss to a highly motivated, yet less talented side, Notre Dame found themselves in the same situation again Saturday evening. Delaware looked like the more motivated side and tried to get to the final media stoppage of the first half in a one-possession game. T.J. Gibbs three point basket just under four minutes remaining keyed a 12-4 run to finish the first half. Notre Dame went in to the locker room up eleven at the half.
The second half saw Notre Dame firmly in charge. The Irish were never threatened. The teams traded made threes through the middle of the second half and combined for 95 points in the final 20 minutes. Notre Dame ended up scoring 54 in the half to cruise to a comfortable 92-68 win on the road.
Half Empty or Half Full?
How you viewed this game depends largely on how you care to view the Irish this season. If you’re an optimist basking in the surfboard trophy and high rankings, you saw the Irish offense get back on track. If you’re a skeptic eyeing a two-loss week, you saw confirmation of your fears.
Notre Dame finally shot the ball well, particularly in the second half. The Irish made 57% of their three-point attempts. ND made 93% of their FT’s. They scored 54 in the second half and 1.39 points-per-possession for the game. A dominating, 24 point victory is what you want to see from a team with high aspirations and expectations.
Notre Dame got off to yet another slow start. The Irish gave up 8 offensive rebounds in the first half and struggled finish defensive possessions. ND didn’t close down shooters particularly well. Brey’s team gave up open looks from the three-point line. Every cause for concern with this team was on display in the first half.
So are you an optimist or a pessimist?
From a statistical perspective, this was classic Brey ball. Notre Dame outshot their opponents 68% to 46% eFG. They didn’t turn it over often nor turned their opponent over, finishing tied at 11% TO rate. The Irish were beat on the glass, letting Delaware collect 26% of the Blue Hen misses, while collecting only 19% of their own. Both teams defended without fouling. Notre Dame finished at 24% FTA/FGA to Delaware’s 20%. Nothing new here. Notre Dame needs to shoot well to win – duh.
Like Mentor, Like Mentee
Stylistically, it was interesting to see how Inglesby mirrors his mentor. His starting back court played 40 minutes each and only other seven Blue Hens saw the court. Inglesby even called a few of those silly timeouts after made three’s. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
For Mike Brey, the win was a relief. The emotions of coming home presented a unique challenge. Brey and his team managed to make it out with a decisive win to go with all the hugs and well wishes. Going in to finals week, his team has time to take care of academic business and get ready for an important match-up with Indiana in the Crossroads Classic.
While the visit to the first state could be interpreted differently by optimists or pessimists, Saturday’s trip to Indy won’t be so grey. You hate to over-weigh a neutral-site, non-conference December game, but Brey’s squad needs to beat Indiana. Pomeroy’s statistical model has the Irish 78% likely to win. Louisville just beat the Hoosiers by nine. This is Notre Dame’s last test before heading in to ACC play. With only two glorified scrimmages between the Crossroads Classic and the ACC opener against GT, it is the perfect time for Mike Brey’s team to put together a 40 minute performance.