Notes: Despite blowouts, exhibitions still boost for Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

It was another basketball game that really wasn’t much of one after halftime.

Still, nothing about the early-season setup for Notre Dame is expected to change anytime soon.

Notre Dame wrapped exhibition play Monday with a 55-point victory over Division III Catholic University. For the second-straight game, the Irish scored over 100 points, led by as many as 60 and had it on cruise control much of the way.

The games helped juniors Martinas Geben and Matt Farrell and sophomore Rex Pflueger feel more comfortable in their expanded roles. All are counted on to be main guys this year, and each delivered.

Geben averaged 11.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 blocks while going 10-for-10 from the field. Farrell averaged 11 points and nine assists and seemed to add another gear to his game. The sixth man both games, Pflueger averaged 7.5 points, three rebounds and four assists.

“These two games have been good to get guys confident,” Brey said.

For the first time since 2004 when the NCAA mandated that high-major college basketball programs cease playing against rag-tag traveling all-star teams in favor of lower-level college programs, Notre Dame scored at least 100 points in both exhibitions.

The Irish are 26-0 against the lower-level programs, who will continue to be part of coach Mike Brey’s preseason plan.

Brey has little interest in trading an exhibition for a game against a fellow high-major program. Those “secret scrimmages” are closed to the media, off-limits to any interested observers and conducted as if they never took place. Nobody acknowledges them afterward. Yet they would likely offer the Irish more of a challenges in one 40-minute contest than they received in two.

“Even though the competition is not great in these, there’s something about having the uniform on and the lights on, especially for your younger players,” Brey said. “The dress rehearsal of being on stage together twice outweighs having better competition right now.”

Brey nearly traveled the secret-scrimmage road a couple years ago. He had a plan in place to play Xavier, which opens this season ranked No. 7. The Irish would travel to Cincinnati and play in Xavier’s Cintas Center. It would be a pretty serious challenge.

But those plans fell apart.

“Ever since then, we haven’t gone back to it,” Brey said. “I always have an open mind to it.”

In Brey-speak that’s code for probably never going to happen.

Among the secret scrimmages this fall, Marquette reportedly beat Dayton, 83-79, at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis and West Virginia pounded No. 15 Purdue, 93-70.

Brey likes the chance for small, private schools like Mercy and Catholic to play in a big-time college basketball setting, something those schools otherwise never get.

Following Monday’s game, Catholic coach Steve Howes and three of his players attended the post-game media press conference. It was an awkward four minutes as the assembled media attempted to offer questions to a group that had been shellacked. But the four at the front of the room soaked in everything they could about their trip to Notre Dame.

“It’s a great opportunity for us,” Howes said. “We aspire to be like Notre Dame in every facet of our program and our university.”

On Tuesday, Catholic junior guard Bill Barnes wrote about “unforgettable memories” during “a great trip” in a blog on the school web site. For them, Monday was a win, regardless of the final stats.

Notre Dame opens the regular season Saturday (noon tip) at home against Bryant.

Harvey set to sign

Wednesday marks the opening of college basketball’s early-signing period, when Notre Dame will add four-star, Top 50 wing prospect D.J. Harvey.

A senior at DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., the 6-foot-6, 205-pound Harvey will challenge for immediate playing time next fall following the graduations of Irish seniors V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia. Harvey will be the second player from DeMatha (Jerian Grant) to sign with Brey, also a DeMatha graduate, during his 17 seasons in South Bend.

Harvey’s signing-day event at DeMatha is expected to be attended by former DeMatha and Notre Dame standout Bob Whitmore.

The only other high school senior to officially visit Notre Dame this fall – guard Darryl Morsell from Mount Saint Joseph High School in Baltimore — recently committed to Maryland over Notre Dame and Dayton.

Wednesday will mark the first time since 2010 that the Irish have had a one-man recruiting class. That year, Notre Dame signed swingman Pat Connaughton, who went on to play in a school-record 139 games.

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