Blue and Gold Illustrated

December 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 36 of 47 DECEMBER 2018 37 MEN'S BASKETBALL BY COREY BODDEN N otre Dame's inexperi- enced frontcourt took a hit just four games into the season when senior captain Elijah Burns opted to leave the pro- gram Nov. 20. The departure of Burns — who will graduate in December and transfer to Siena — leaves junior John Mooney, Connecti- cut transfer Juwan Dur- ham, and freshmen Nate Laszewski and Chris Doherty to man the Irish frontcourt. The Irish were already planning to lean on Mooney, who played in 48 games during his first two years in South Bend. Last year, he flashed some of his promise, w h i l e a v e r a g i n g 5 . 6 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest and shooting 41.9 percent (31 of 74) from three- point range. Durham, also a junior, saw action in 28 games during his freshman campaign at UConn in 2016-17, but played only 8.3 minutes per contest. The former four-star prospect suf- fered two ACL injuries before arriv- ing at Connecticut, and Irish head coach Mike Brey believed it would take time for him to make an impact this season. Burns' departure was partly be- cause of the "youth movement" the Irish are embracing with the five freshmen and Durham entering the fray this season. Burns' skill set relegated him to the post and as a screener in pick-and-roll situations. Mooney now becomes the post option for the Irish, even though he has made his mark from the three- point line during his time in South Bend. Against Duquesne Nov. 20, he was more aggressive inside and served as the screener for the Irish guards while tallying 16 points and 10 rebounds. Brey will continue to allow him to take shots on the perimeter, but when in need of a bucket inside or more of a presence in the paint it appears Mooney will be the go-to figure. He had three double-doubles in the first six games while averaging 12.2 points and 9.3 rebounds. With Mooney need- ing to spend more time in the post, the rookie Laszewski will be called upon to h an dle th e stretch-four role because of his shooting prowess, most recently 4 of 6 from three-point range in the 95-70 win versus DePaul Nov. 24. At 200 pounds, Laszewski is not ready for the physicality and strength necessary to be effective inside. Putting Mooney in the "five" position more often will allow Laszewski to focus on knocking down perimeter shots and rebounding. Durham will now see more min- utes come his way after Burns' de- parture, and the junior brings a little different skill set than typical Irish big men. Although he is still developing an offensive game within the Notre Dame system, the 6-11 Durham pos- sesses the length and athleticism to give the Irish a shot-blocking pres- ence inside and a quality rebounder. He also can create problems in a zone defense with his length. Doherty was a candidate to red- shirt this season, but could start consistently dressing each game to provide depth if necessary. The fresh- man would fit the role that Austin Torres played in recent seasons, pro- viding energy and rebounding off the bench when called upon. Replacing Burns should not be too much of a problem for Brey, but los- ing his leadership and the depth he provided will add more pressure to Mooney and the young frontcourt. ✦ Irish Move Forward Without Senior Captain Elijah Burns Junior forward John Mooney will be counted on even more in the frontcourt following the departure of Burns. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN Notre Dame Blows Out DePaul Notre Dame put together a complete offensive performance in a 95-70 win against DePaul Nov. 24. The Fighting Irish (5-1) led the Blue Demons (3-1) by just three (39-36) at the half despite shooting 48.4 percent, but head coach Mike Brey's team hit 18 of 29 shots (62.1 percent) in the second half, including 7 of 13 (53.8 percent) from behind the arc, to pull away for the blowout victory. Notre Dame, which trailed for 7:49 of the opening half, used a 32-10 run over the first nine-plus minutes of the second half to squash the hopes of the Blue Demons. Senior guard Rex Pflueger exploded for 17 points in the second half while hitting all five of his field goals and led all scorers with 20 points. Freshman guard Prentiss Hubb and freshman forward Nate Laszewski each added 15 points, career highs for both, while junior guard T.J. Gibbs finished with 18 points. Notre Dame shot 33 of 60 (55.0 percent) overall and 13 of 27 (48.1 percent) on three-point at- tempts, with both representing seasons highs. The 95 points also marked a season best. Next up, the Irish host Illinois Nov. 27, face Oklahoma Dec. 4 at Madison Square Garden in New York, play at UCLA Dec. 8 and square off against Purdue Dec. 15 in Indianapolis. — Corey Bodden

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