Notre Dame gets back on track with home win over Detroit Mercy

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — An angry Dane Goodwin can be an effective Dane Goodwin.

The Notre Dame sophomore guard said as much in the coach’s office during a meeting Monday, then showed as much Tuesday at home in a needed bounce-back game against Detroit Mercy.

Irish coach Mike Brey likes to say that Goodwin plays best when he’s a little upset and playing with more of an edge. Goodwin and his teammates had plenty to be irritated over after losing their last two.

Goodwin erupted for a career high 27 points and seven rebounds to lead Notre Dame to a 110-71 victory at Purcell Pavilion. It was an Irish season best for points. They came into the contest averaging 72.3.

“It was good to see a couple down, especially after the last two games,” Goodwin said. “It starts with my teammates. We had some great looks all night long. Overall,w e played really well tonight.”

Everything about Notre Dame (7-3) looked different. The way the Irish moved the ball. The way they shared it. Even the looks in their eyes showed more determined than the doubt that dominated last week. It was obvious even before halftime that Notre Dame wasn’t losing this one. The only drama would be how many points the Irish would score, how many assists they’d rack up and how big of a night Goodwin and the rest of the Irish would enjoy.

“Maybe our offense woke up a little bit tonight,” Brey said. “I like how we responded the last two days in practice.”

Notre Dame shot 59.4 percent from the field, 51.3 percent from 3 and finished with 33 assists.

“That’s pretty powerful,” Brey said.

“We were just moving it tonight,” Goodwin said. “Guys were more aggressive taking their shots. We got good looks all night long.”

The Irish also connected on a season high 20 3-pointers. Detroit Mercy (1-8) was in the wrong place at the wrong time. What positives did former Indiana coach Mike Davis take for the Titans out of this one?

“None,” he said. “We just kind of laid down at one point.”

Irish sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb had a career high 11 assists. Senior guard T.J. Gibbs also had a career best eight helpers. The Irish placed six players in double figures for points.

A scary moment arrived barely two minutes into the second half when Irish guard Rex Pflueger’s left leg buckled as he tried to plant while driving along the sideline across from the Irish bench. Pflueger missed the second half of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. He remained down for a bit before walking toward the Irish bench, then to the training room with medical personnel. He returned to the bench at the under-16 minute timeout.

Pflueger was cleared to return if needed. He wasn’t needed.

“He’s fine,” Brey said.

Brey took one for the team in some ways after Saturday’s game, saying that last week was arguably the worst week he’s had as a head coach in his 20 seasons at Notre Dame. Brey lamented that he wasn’t as plugged in as he should have been after all that had happened in a week that saw Notre Dame lose one sophomore (Chris Doherty) to a transfer and another (guard Robby Carmody) to a season-ending knee injury.

The Irish played feeling too sorry for themselves for too long in dropping Saturday’s league home opener to Boston College, a team it had never lost to since joining the ACC in 2013-14. What better way than to take out that festering frustration against a Detroit Mercy team that arrived having lost four in a row and winless (0-5) on the road.

“We just tried to use that as fuel to the fire and play as hard as we could,” said Irish power forward Juwan Durham.

Notre Dame looked more like Notre Dame should the first four possessions. The Irish connected on their first four shots, and had four assists on those four baskets, to grab an early 10-5 lead. Gibbs opened the Irish scoring with a deep 3 to give the home team something it never had on Saturday — the lead. The Irish trailed for a total of 31 seconds.

Notre Dame led 12-7 at the first media timeout. After making their first four shots, the Irish made one of its next seven before a Rex Pflueger wing 3 gave them a 19-12 lead. A Durham bucket from the baseline stretched the Irish advantage to double figures for the first time, 24-14.

The Irish moved and cut and swung the ball better than they have recently, which led to easy looks and open looks. Good looks. Notre Dame had assists on 12 of its first 13 baskets doing what Brey wanted them to do.

“Move it!”

Attending Tuesday’s game was Kentucky coach John Calipari, whose son, Brad, is a graduate student guard for the Titans. Coach Calipari flew up from Lexington in the late afternoon. He lit a candle at the Grotto and threw a football around the playing surface of Notre Dame Stadium before watching the game from Club Naimoli with former Irish coach Digger Phelps.

Brad Calipari made his first shot — a 3 — shortly after checking in.

There were seats reserved for six NBA scouts (a season high for an Irish home game) for Tuesday’s game. One of the scouts said the six were in town to see really one guy, Titan guard Antoine Davis, who came into the contest averaging a team-high 23.8 points per game.

The Titans were a lot of Davis (27 points) and little else.

Notre Dame’s Dane Goodwin shoots a three point basket over Detroit Mercy’s Marquis Moore Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey talks to his team during the first half against Detroit Mercy Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.