Notes: Notre Dame sophomore Rex Pflueger heck of a handler

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

NEWARK, N.J. – Given how he continuously broke the golden rule of the Notre Dame basketball program before his college career ever started, sophomore guard Rex Pflueger is in the midst of a ridiculous run.

Make that Rex-diculous.

Pflueger has played 161 minutes (20.1 per game) in eight games … with no turnovers.

Zero.

None.

Rex-diculous? Irish coach Mike Brey prefers to describe it another way.

“Staggering,” he said of the 17-to-0 assist/turnover ratio. “Are you kidding me? He’s making plays; he’s not playing it safe.”

Official stats for consecutive turnover-free minutes are not kept by Notre Dame, though the 6-foot-6 Pflueger’s stretch likely is without peer. During the 2003-04 season, former Irish guard Chris Quinn played the better part of six games – 159 total minutes – without a turnover.

His first miscue came during a noon Saturday start against Villanova.

Pflueger and No. 23 Notre Dame (9-0) meet top-ranked Villanova (9-0) on Saturday at noon (CBS) in the first game of the inaugural Never Forget Tribute Classic at Prudential Center

Brey told the story Thursday of Pflueger’s first three practices as a freshman the summer before the 2015-16 season. He “turned it over every other possession.” That was a main reason why Pflueger collected six DNP-CDs (did not play, coach’s decision), in his first 13 games.

Want to play more? Take better care of the ball. Treat it, as Brey offers in gospel to his guards, like gold.

Gold it’s been. Pflueger had a career-high five assists Sunday against North Carolina A&T and two Tuesday against Fort Wayne.

“When I’m handling the ball, I want to make plays,” he said. “But I also want to make the safe and smart plays.

“My handles are a lot better.”

Pflueger is aware of his clean turnover column, so he does think about it during games. Still, he’s not going to change his ways. He just plays.

“I’m still going to be aggressive with my passing because I want to find my guys in the open spots,” he said. “It just comes down to confidence with the ball.”

Looking ahead

Brey confirmed on his first radio show of the season Thursday night what many knew was only a matter of time – Notre Dame will visit the other Newark next season.

This one’s in Delaware and pronounced New-ARK. It’s also the place where Brey coached for five seasons before taking the Notre Dame job. It’s currently home to former Irish point guard and assistant coach Martin Ingelsby in his first season as a head coach at Delaware.

Notre Dame visits Delaware for the first time ever in a non-league game next season. That means the Irish non-league slate, at least the “marquee” section of it, is all but complete.

Notre Dame is scheduled to be the first game for DePaul in its new building – the $164 million, 10,000-seat Wintrust Arena, located south of downtown Chicago near McCormick Place. The Irish likely will have a road game (Michigan State?) in the annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. Notre Dame also returns to Maui for the first time since losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in the 2008 Maui Invitational championship game.

The rest of the 2017 Maui Invitational (Nov. 20-22) field includes host Chaminade, California, LSU, Marquette, Michigan, Virginia Commonwealth and Wichita State.

Notre Dame also plays Indiana in the annual Crossroads Classic.

 Baseline bits

• Notre Dame has eight wins all-time against teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. The last was over Syracuse, 67-58, on Jan. 21, 2012.

• A win Saturday would give the Irish their best start (10-0) since opening 12-0 in 1973-74.

• Sophomore forward Matt Ryan is 3-for-7 inside the 3-point arc this season, 20-of-42 beyond it. His 3-point field goal percentage of 47.6 leads the Atlantic Coast Conference. Teammate Steve Vasturia is second at 46.2.

• Brey is 7-4 during his 17 seasons in South Bend against defending national champions. The Irish have won four in a row against opponents who won it all the previous spring.

• The Irish historically like to get into an away/neutral site arena for a practice or shoot-around the day a game, but that wasn’t possible Friday. Prudential Center’s main tenant, the New Jersey Devils, hosted an NHL game against the St. Louis Blues.

• Notre Dame practiced at noon on campus before an early-evening charter flight into Teterboro Airport after originally being scheduled to land at Newark Liberty International.

• Irish point guard Matt Farrell’s father, Bob, is a former assistant coach at St. Benedict’s (N.J.) Prep School. That campus is located about six blocks west of Prudential Center.

• Notre Dame leads the nation in fewest turnovers per game (8.1.).

• Farrell has made all 24 of his free throws this season and is working on a run of 28 straight dating back to the end of last season.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI