The Irish defeated the Central State Marauders 76-54 at Purcell Pavilion on Thursday night in their only stateside exhibition. While the game was sloppy at times, especially in the first half, the contest provided a first look at a number of new faces for ND. Although the team will look different come conference play, we did get a few insights into this year’s squad. TJ Gibbs, as expected, led the team in minutes and points. Rex Pflueger was just behind Gibbs in minutes, and played his typical excellent defense. Since no one wants to read a play-by-play recap of a ho-hum win over a D-II school, here’s a few key takeaways from the game.
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New Faces in the Starting Lineup
With the departure of Bonzie Colson, Matt Farrell, and Martinas Geben, the Irish were guaranteed to look different this year. While we knew Pflueger and Gibbs were guaranteed to be starters, no one was really sure how the rest of the lineup would shake out. To begin the season, DJ Harvey, John Mooney, and Prentiss Hubb will round out the starting lineup. In the second half, Juwan Durham replaced Mooney. Both lineups feature a single big surrounded by four guards. When Mooney plays, all five players are viable three point threats. The offensive potential of this group is off the charts, despite some question marks on defense. Harvey flashed all the athletic potential we saw early last season, and he looks to be 100% back from injury. Mooney was super efficient scoring 11 points on 5/7 shooting. Also of note is that Gibbs and Hubb split PG duties. While TJ usually brought the ball up and initiated the offense, he occasionally moved to the two and allowed Hubb to run the show.
The Freshmen Can Play
The much hyped Irish recruiting class made their first appearance, and looked like they belonged. Hubb didn’t look out of place with the starters, and has a natural calm about his game. Robby Carmody and Nate Laszewski were among the first two subs to enter the game. Dane Goodwin reached double digits scoring. The only freshman not to play significant minutes was Chris Doherty who many believe will take a redshirt. While Hubb and Laz played the most minutes, Goodwin and Carmody were probably the most impressive freshmen last night. They combined for 19 points on 7/10 shooting. Both guys knocked down a three, got to the rim, drew fouls, and snagged a few boards. Goodwin even threw down a dunk on a fast break. Both guys look to be ahead of Nik Djogo in Brey’s pecking order. While there’s not a ton of guard/wing minutes available, both will be hard to keep on the bench if they continue to impress.
What to Make of Juwan Durham
Unlike the freshmen, Juwan Durham struggled a bit in his first action with the Irish. Although he did play solid defense at the rim, his offensive game left a bit to be desired. Durham was blocked or stripped in the post by some smaller guys which doesn’t bode well for future matchups against ACC bigs. Durham did have some nice put-back dunks (see the photo above) and grabbed six boards in just 14 minutes, but you’d like to see a 6’11” center dominate a bit more against this level of opponent.
Shooting Woes Continue from Last Season
The Irish were uncharacteristically bad shooting from deep last season, and the Irish struggled last night. As a whole, the Irish shot just 8/29 (27.6%) from behind the arc. Laszweski shot just 1/6 from three. Harvey also shot a poor 1/4 from deep. That said, it’s definitely too early and way too small a sample size to cause a panic. Most misses were good looks that rimmed out. Laszweki’s stoke looks fantastic, and he has a lightning quick release. Harvey also knocked down a few mid-range jumpers, so the potential for good three point shooting is there. On the positive side, Gibbs shot a solid 3/8 and Mooney made his only three pointer. Lastly, the free throw shooting was off compared to the last few seasons. The Irish shot 12/19 (63.1%) compared to the 75.8% effort last season and 80.0% the year before that. Again, one game is a tiny sample size, but it may be something to watch going forward.
Looking Ahead to the Regular Season
Mike Brey’s team kicks off the regular season on Tuesday night when they host Illinois-Chicago. In case you missed it, part one of the 18 Stripes season preview dropped yesterday. Part two will drop Tuesday morning before the game. While none of the first five games should be competitive, hopefully we’ll get a clearer look at the rotations, see the freshmen keep balling out, and the Irish will improve their shooting.