• Game 9: Loyola (Chicago) (5-3) @ Notre Dame (6-2)
• Date: Dec.13, 2015
• Place: Purcell Pavilion; Notre Dame, Ind.
• Time: 2:00 p.m. ET
• TV: ESPN3
• Opponent Nickname: Ramblers
• Head coach: Porter Moser (5th year, 61-77; 12th year overall, 166-178)
• Conference: Missouri Valley
• Location: Chicago, Ill.
• 2014-15 record: 24-13 (8-10 in MVC)
The third of a trio of games in a 12-day span following the busy Thanksgiving weekend in Orlando will be the last until after final exams at Notre Dame. The Irish will then close out non-conference play with a trip to Indianapolis to take on Indiana (Dec. 19), followed by home games before (Dec. 21 Youngstown State) and after (Dec. 29, Liberty) Christmas, which leads into the start of conference play.
The Irish enter Sunday’s game against Loyola (Chicago) having played three straight excellent halves of basketball, dating back to the second half at Illinois on Dec. 2 when Notre Dame overcame an eight-point halftime deficit by scoring 51 second-half points in an 84-79 win over the Illini.
The Irish came back six days later and manhandled a sound Stony Brook team, 86-61.
Eight days ago, Loyola (Chicago) went with a guard-dominated lineup without 6-foot-7, 220-pound senior Montel James and came away with a 68-65 victory over the Bluejays as 6-foot-4 junior Milton Doyle scored 17 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished eight assists.
Doyle paces the Ramblers in scoring at 14.4 points per game while shooting 52.8 percent from the field and 44.8 from three-point range (13-of-29). Doyle also leads Loyola in assists at 3.8 per game while ranking second on the team in rebounds at 5.3.
Two other Ramblers average double figures – 6-foot-4 senior Devon Turk (13.3 ppg.) and 6-foot-3 senior Earl Peterson (10.6 ppg.).
BREY ON LOYOLA
“They won 24 games last year, so here again, another team that can come in and beat us, like a Milwaukee, like a Stony Brook, like a Monmouth…They’re very much out of that mold.
“More guard-oriented, a lot of ball screens. They’re really well-coached. Porter (Moser) is one of the under-the-radar talented young guys in our profession. I’m really impressed with him. I got to know him on the road and I’ve watched what he’s built over there.
“They’ll have their fans traveling over on a Sunday afternoon. They’ll have a good contingent. We have to be ready to go. We have to be ready to roll. It will be a good strength of schedule game and a good win if we can get it.”
GO WITH THE FLOW
It’s been a series of fits and starts for the big-man combination of Zach Auguste and Bonzie Colson, a unique pairing in an offensive system in which Brey prefers a four-around-one look.
Tuesday against Stony Brook was the best the duo looked together in the young season with Auguste playing a complete, dominant game by converting 9-of-13 from the field en route to a 23-point, 11-rebound performance. Colson scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds in 22 minutes of action.
“I’d like to see him do exactly what he did the other night,” said Brey of Colson’s performance against the Seawolves. “I thought that was his most alert, focused game for us. He got off to a good start. He was doing what we want him to do around the bucket. He was rebounding the ball. He gave us a defensive presence.
“I thought he was the most focused on doing stuff around the bucket, cutting, rebounding, defending, and not thinking about too many things. Keeping it simple. Keeping it more in the junkyard dog mode, which is what he was in last year. I want to capitalize on that.”
It will remain a work in progress. Auguste, over the course of four seasons, seems to have adapted his game in most phases. He did a little bit of everything on both ends of the floor against Stony Brook.
Brey said that Colson arrived at Notre Dame without a sense of how to screen defenders away from the ball to get teammates open within the offense.
“He’s come a long way on how to help people get open,” Brey said. “He’s learned that when you screen, many times you benefit from that. He’s out there with three guys who can shoot the ball and score. If a Vasturia or a Beachem comes off a screen, your guys helps and you ‘shape up,’ you he can benefit from that.”
With the two Matts (Farrell and Ryan) coming off the bench, and Austin Torres in a niche role as an energetic force on the backboards, the Irish are running seven-to-eight deep with four non-conference games remaining.
Could someone squeeze into that rotation? Brey rarely goes more than seven or eight deep. But if another player were to sneak into the rotation?
“He’s right on the edge,” said Brey of 6-foot-6 freshman guard Rex Pflueger, who saw four minutes of action against Stony Brook and has played in four of eight games.
“He’s the next man up, and he’s been really good in practice. He gives you a great defensive presence. He’s gotten better with the ball, which is a key. It’s just hard to get him in there.”
Brey told Pflueger the story of Bonzie Colson, who saw one minute of action in the first four ACC games of the 2014-15 season before emerging as a regular contributor the rest of the season.
“It’s not easy, and it’s up to me and the staff to keep (Pflueger), Martin Geben, Burg (Austin Burgett) engaged,” Brey said. “You’ve got to keep trying to give them hope and focus on the big picture. But I’ve been very pleased with what (Pflueger) is doing in practice.”