Notre Dame runs into all kind of trouble at No. 13 Michigan State

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

EAST LANSING, Mich. — A veteran Notre Dame team needed to play like one Saturday to have a chance.

It didn't, and so, it didn't.

Notre Dame looked too young and too uncertain for too long of a stretch against No. 13 Michigan State, which ran away with an 80-70 victory at Breslin Center.

Junior guard Prentiss Hubb led the Irish (0-1) with 23 points. Cormac Ryan added 13. Aaron Henry led the Spartans (2-0) with 14.

The Irish trailed by as many as 28 and have lost in their two trips to the building by an average of 14.

The Spartans ripped off 26 unanswered points to take control of this one. Notre Dame went a combined stretch of 9:43 between the end of the first half and early in the second without a field goal.

"It's a great teaching moment for our group in how a game can get away from you," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "We stopped moving the ball. It was two passes and somebody put their head down.

"They're very good."

It was consecutive loss No. 22 to a ranked team for Notre Dame, which hasn’t beaten a team with an Associated Press number next to its name in over three seasons.

For the Irish, Saturday was their first game since March 11 when Notre Dame beat Boston College to open Atlantic Coast Conference tournament play. It was a 262-day gap between games. The Irish had zero exhibitions and no scrimmages complete with officials since the pandemic.

"We just gotta play hard for a full 40 minutes," Hubb said.

Saturday’s game was played without any fans in the arena stands. It was essential personnel only anywhere near the court. A handful of media were scattered at press tables around the concourse level. A low hum of fake crowd noise was piped in during play.

This one turned in the final seven minutes of the first half, one that saw the Irish lead by as many as four following a Nate Laszewski leaner and free throw to make it 26-22.

"We," Brey said, "were going for it."

It was all Spartans the rest of the way. They led by double digits the final 20:41.

"It's a learning experience," Hubb said. "Going forward, we're going to have to dig in and box out and rebound and match up with teams' intensities."

Michigan State scored 17 unanswered points, Notre Dame missed its last 13 field goal attempts and what had been a relatively close contest disintegrated into a 13-point Irish halftime deficit.

Leaders in the Big Ten in blocked shots per game last season at five, Michigan State had 10 at the break. The Spartans made swatting shots look easy. There were too few ball fakes or rhyme or reason to the Irish offense for long stretches. They were too easy to guard.

Seven turnovers also didn’t help.

Poor shot selection and sloppiness caused the Irish to fall back into old habits of going extended stretches without scoring.

Notre Dame opened with a starting five that was identified early in preseason, one that included three guards — Dane Goodwin, Hubb and Ryan and two power forwards in Juwan Durham and Laszewski. Saturday was Ryan’s first game in an Irish uniform after sitting out last season as a transfer from Stanford. What do teammates think of the New York City native? They named him one of four captains earlier this month.

Ryan responded to his first game action in seemingly forever with a pair of 3s from out front to erase an early five-point deficit. They were his only baskets in the first half.

The Irish dressed only eight available scholarship players and were without three others. Robby Carmody continues to recover from offseason surgery to repair a cracked kneecap. He could be back by Christmas. Freshman power forward Elijah Taylor will undergo surgery next month to repair a tendon issue in his ankle. He’s gone for the season. And Santa Clara Trey Wertz, who Brey hoped to get eligible through a special coronavirus waiver, was not in uniform.

Michigan State, which opened Wednesday with a home win over Eastern Michigan, went nine deep less than four minutes in Saturday.

The Irish didn’t waste much time – the game wasn’t even five minutes old – before going to a four perimeter players around one big man lineup look, which often serves this program best. Out went Durham for fellow graduate student Nik Djogo. Rebounding was an issue against the taller, more physical Spartans.

Notre Dame also mixed man and zone defensive looks to keep State off balance. Sometimes, it worked. Sometimes it didn’t, especially when the Spartans went with two bigs, which allowed them to lob over the top of the Irish defense for dunks and lay-ins.

Notre Dame had originally planned to bus the two hours and change up to Breslin Center on the day of the game (with the late start), but pandemic testing protocols mandated that the Irish traveling party be in town on Friday. Everyone in the traveling party again was tested Saturday with all tests coming back negative, which meant the game was a go.

"I'm kind of thrilled we got the game in," said Brey, whose team was tested for coronavirus four times last week.

Notre Dame returns to action Wednesday with its home opener against Western Michigan. The Irish were scheduled to play No. 12 Tennessee on Friday at home as well, but that game was canceled after the Volunteers shut down basketball activities at the start of the week because of positive coronavirus tests, which included head coach Rick Barnes.

Brey took to Twitter late Saturday asking if there was any Division I team out there that wanted to schedule a game with the Irish next weekend – Brey’s willing to play Friday, Saturday or Sunday and home or away. As of Saturday, there were no takers.


At East Lansing, Mich.

NOTRE DAME (0-1): Durham 2-7 0-0 4, Laszewski 4-6 3-5 12, Goodwin 3-10 6-7 12, Hubb 7-23 5-7 23, Ryan 3-12 4-4 13, Djogo 1-1 0-0 2, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Zona 0-0 1-2 1, Morgan 1-1 1-1 3. Totals 21-60 20-26 70.

MICHIGAN ST. (2-0): Hauser 4-11 2-4 10, Henry 4-11 5-5 14, Kithier 2-3 2-2 6, Langford 3-7 0-0 8, Loyer 1-1 1-1 3, Brown 4-8 0-0 9, Watts 5-11 0-0 13, Hall 2-3 0-1 4, Bingham 3-8 1-1 7, Hoggard 0-2 0-0 0, Hoiberg 0-1 0-0 0, Marble 1-1 1-1 3, Sissoko 1-1 1-1 3, Izzo 0-2 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-70 13-16 80.

Halftime:_Michigan St. 39-26. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 8-21 (Hubb 4-11, Ryan 3-7, Laszewski 1-1, Goodwin 0-2), Michigan St. 7-22 (Watts 3-5, Langford 2-3, Henry 1-3, Brown 1-5, Hall 0-1, Izzo 0-1, Hauser 0-4). Rebounds:Notre Dame 33 (Laszewski 9), Michigan St. 46 (Hauser 16). Assists: Notre Dame 13 (Goodwin 4), Michigan St. 26 (Watts 6). Total Fouls: Notre Dame 11, Michigan St. 21.

Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan looks to pass to a  teammate while being defended by Michigan State's Malik Hall during Saturday's game at Breslin Center.