NCAA Notebook: Rex Pflueger ready to move past special shot for ND
A second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16 for Notre Dame was the end result of his play, but freshman guard Rex Pflueger wishes all the attention over it would go away.
The California kid admitted that it was pretty cool, and a little surprising, to be summoned for an on-court interview with CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce moments after his tip-in with 1.5 seconds remaining Sunday gave Notre Dame a 76-75 victory over Stephen F. Austin in second-round East Region play.
It was just as cool to wake Monday morning from a plethora of texts — about 30 — from his father. Each showed pictures from various newspapers of Pflueger celebrating the win.
One photo made him cringe.
“I looked,” he said, “like a gargoyle.”
Pflueger also thought it cool to accept congratulations on campus most of Monday from kids he doesn’t know.
But by Tuesday afternoon when the Irish convened for practice in preparation for Friday’s East Region semifinal against Wisconsin (22-12) in Philadelphia, Pflueger was ready to stop concentrating on what he had done and focus on what he can do to keep the Irish in Philadelphia the entire Easter weekend.
Forget the 24-hour rule that players lean on to savor big wins. Pflueger didn’t want even 24 minutes. Back in a raucous Barclays Center locker room late Sunday afternoon, Pflueger insisted that his game really didn’t win the game, that it wasn’t that big of a deal.
Yes, it was, but just not to him.
“I really don’t want all of that,” he said. “It’s cool to bask in that moment a little bit (and) I’ll look back on it later on, but I like to move to on to the next game.”
That means getting ready for another Big Ten team, one that looks an awful lot like Notre Dame. Pflueger helped the Irish out of a tough spot once. Now he hopes to help again. However he can.
“It’s about our team right now,” he said. “People are starting to talk about us again. We just want to keep moving forward.”
Even if it was Pflueger who provided one big push.
Irish junior swingman V.J. Beachem wanted to play really well earlier this month in the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Shaking off last year’s March struggles, Beachem averaged a team-best 15 points in two games in Washington. He then set his sights on being better in the NCAA Tournament than he was in 2015.
He has been.
Heading into the second weekend of the tournament, Beachem is averaging a team-best 16.5 points per game. After scoring all of four points in four NCAA games last season, he already has hit for 33. He’s shooting 65 percent from the field, 50 percent from 3 in his first two tourney tests.
He’s gone to the free throw line only once, but that stat is misleading. The 6-foot-8 Beachem is attacking more off the dribble inside the 3-point line. He’s scored on mid-range baskets and drives to the basket, where he’s also not been shy about showing off his left hand, seldom used in seasons past.
Why the consistent streak?
“Playing against new opponents,” Beachem said. “In the ACC a lot of people knew me as a shooter, but I’ve been able to find other ways to get open in postseason.”
Preparing to leave on another road trip with his professional basketball team in Belgium, former Notre Dame swingman Carleton Scott posted on Facebook early Tuesday morning his feelings of being “blessed to be doing what I love.”
Hours later, Scott wrestled with waves of far different emotions after a pair of bombs detonated inside the departure hall of the Brussels Airport. About a half hour earlier, Scott and his Antwerp teammates had been in the same area. They were in the airport at their gate awaiting their flight to Varese, Italy when the bombs went off.
Belgium officials classified it as a terrorist act that left 34 dead and over 200 wounded.
“Been relatively calm trying to process it all,” Scott told the Tribune in a Facebook message. “You never think it can happen to you. If we would have been 30 mins later, it could’ve been us.”
Travelers were evacuated from the airport and remained outside for several hours. Scott and his teammates then returned to Antwerp, 35 miles away, by bus. By nightfall, he was back in his apartment.
Scott is in his first season playing for Antwerp in the Scooore League, Belgium’s highest classification of professional basketball.
• Pflueger’s beat-the-clock tip was the first time since Feb. 1, 2014, that the Irish won a game on a last-second shot. That day at Purcell Pavilion, guard Eric Atkins connected on a 3-pointer with one second left to help beat Boston College, 76-73.
• Sunday’s loss to Notre Dame was the last game at Stephen F. Austin for coach Brad Underwood, who barely 24 hours later was hired by Oklahoma State.
• The Irish traveling party departs Wednesday evening for Philadelphia. Notre Dame’s 50-minute practice session at Wells Fargo Center, is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. on Thursday. Admission is free.
• Brey celebrated his 57th birthday on Tuesday.
WHO: No. 6 seed Notre Dame (23-11) vs. No. 7 Wisconsin (22-12).
WHERE: Wells Fargo Center (19,500), Philadelphia.
WHEN: Friday at 7:27 p.m.
RADIO: WSBT (960 AM, 96.1 FM).
ONLINE: Follow every Notre Dame game with live updates from Tribune beat writer Tom Noie at twitter.com@tnoieNDI.