Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Preview: UMass-Lowell @ Notre Dame

Irish expect to move to 3-0 before next week’s Advocare Invitational in Orlando where Notre Dame takes on Monmouth, Dayton or Iowa, and perhaps Wichita State.

Game 3: UMass-Lowell (1-1) @ Notre Dame (2-0)
Date: Nov. 21, 2015
Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
TV: ESPN3
Opponent Nickname: River Hawks
Head coach: Pat Duquette (3rd year; 23-36)
Conference: America East
Location: Lowell, Mass.
2014-15 record: 12-17 (6-10 in America East)

After losing at Northwestern (79-57) to open the 2015-16 season, the River Hawks bounced back with an 87-84 victory over Sacred Heart University.

The established star of the River Hawks is 6-foot-2, 220-pound red-shirt sophomore Jahad Thomas, who averaged 14.3 points and 6.5 rebounds last season. In two games this year, he is averaging 14.0 points and 8.5 rebounds.

Through two games, UMass-Lowell has been led in scoring by 6-foot-0, 165-pound freshman guard Isaac White, who is averaging 16.0 points per game, connecting on 5-of-8 three-pointers.

No other UMass-Lowell player averages double digits, but 6-foot-6, 210-pound junior Tyler Livingston is scoring at a 9.0 clip while converting on 4-of-7 three-points.

The River Hawks –who finished sixth out of nine teams in America East last season – are shooting just 39.8 percent from the field.

Notre Dame enters the UMass-Lowell game with four players averaging double-figure scoring: Demetrius Jackson (23.5), Zach Auguste (16.0), V.J. Beachem (12.5) and Steve Vasturia (11.5). Auguste also is averaging 10 rebounds per game and Beachem is at 7.0.

The Irish have converted 79.5 percent of their free-throw attempts (35-of-44).

WACKY WORLD

Mike Brey’s radar for upsets was on high alert Tuesday when the Irish hosted Milwaukee, which entered the game 3-0 after winning the Cable Car Classic at Santa Clara, including a championship victory over the home team.

For good reason.

Over the course of the last week, Sacramento State defeated Arizona State, Belmont knocked off Marquette, Chattanooga beat Georgia, North Florida upset Illinois, William & Mary shocked North Carolina State, Western Illinois stunned Wisconsin, Tulsa beat Wichita State, Monmouth knocked off UCLA, and George Mason tripped up Mississippi.

“I didn’t eat today,” said Brey following Notre Dame’s 86-78 victory over Milwaukee Tuesday. “(Milwaukee), when I watched them on film, reminded me of Indiana State. Just like Indiana State, who got us here a couple years ago.

“You see the scores and you see another one go down, and another one go down, and another one go down…Then we were down six (vs. Milwaukee in the first half) and I’m thinking, ‘Okay, this is going to be interesting.’

“But we guarded enough and our offensive efficiency was through the roof. Sometimes you’ve got to do that to escape a team that’s really shooting the heck out of it.”

LONG-DISTANCE RUNAROUND

Brey had a strong inkling that junior forward V.J. Beachem would come out smoking against Milwaukee, which is a potential top 100 RPI team with the ability to challenge for the Horizon League title.

“He’s practiced so well,” said Brey after Beachem, the 6-foot-8, 200-pounder, who connected on 4-of-7 from three-point range en route to a career-high-tying 19 points.

“He didn’t miss a shot (Monday) in practice. Sometimes I stop practice when a guy’s shooting real (well) because I want to save some of those bullets for the next day. But he had it again (vs. Milwaukee), and his teammates really found him.”

In addition to possessing the team’s purest long-range jump shot – freshman Matt Ryan could challenge for that title -- Beachem had eight rebounds against the Panthers, which exceeded his career-high of six just four days earlier.

“The way he’s rebounding the ball, his post-defense and the shot block he had…just keep growing, son. I’m excited about what he can be by Jan. 1.”

VASTURIA: STABILIZING FORCE

It was a quiet game for Steve Vasturia against Milwaukee.

While Beachem was exploding for a career-high in scoring and rebounding, Zach Auguste scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, Demetrius Jackson tossed in 20 with seven assists, and Bonzie Colson sparked a 16-2 run to close the first half, Vasturia contributed an “anonymous” 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting with four assists and just one turnover in 35 minutes.

Brey looks at Vasturia’s game much differently than the stat sheet indicates.

“Never did he make a defensive mistake,” said Brey of Vasturia’s performance against Milwaukee. “If you look at the threes we gave up (14) – and they made some tough ones – Vasturia is never involved with a defensive breakdown.

“He’s amazing defensively. He makes the extra pass. He’s driving the ball more for us. He missed a couple and forced a couple, but I think we’ve got to live with that because under this new rule, we’re going to get some fouls. So we want him to drive it…Absolutely rock-solid.”


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