Quick start carries Notre Dame to (relatively) easy victory at home over Southern Indiana

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Nov 16, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Trey Wertz (3) reacts after a three point basket in the second half against the Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles at the Purcell Pavilion.

SOUTH BEND Three quick thoughts and other news and notes and anecdotes from Wednesday’s men’s college basketball game between Southern Indiana and Notre Dame, won by the Irish, 82-70, in front of 4,433 at Purcell Pavilion... 

∎ It’s often hard to tell when he isn’t salty, but Notre Dame associate head coach Anthony Solomon wasn’t in the best of moods after the first two games. 

Too much leakage on the defensive end for his liking. Solomon returned for his third stint as an Irish assistant last year, and was charged with getting the Irish to be better on that end. They were good enough to get back to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2017. First two games this year, it was as if Notre Dame forgot about the principles that the guy they call “Slo” preached last season. 

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That’s why Solomon wasn’t happy after the first two games. Mike Brey said if Solomon isn’t happy, he isn’t happy. Brey guessed that Solomon would get into some of the guys in practice Tuesday. He didn’t need to. The Irish knew they had to be better, and were in practice, then were again Wednesday. 

“That was obviously a focus for us in practice,” said super senior power forward Nate Laszewski. “Being a little bit more vocal on the defensive side of the ball as well as dictating what they’re doing. It definitely raised a level today.” 

On Wednesday, Notre Dame (3-0) was better. At least, for the first half. The Irish entered the game last Atlantic Coast Conference in scoring defense (78.5 ppg.) and field goal percentage defense (.485). Notre Dame then held Southern Indiana (1-2) to 34.4 percent from the floor, 22.2 percent from 3 and 25 points in a first half that saw the Irish lead by 17 at the break. 

“They did a great job icing the ball screen,” said Southern Indiana coach Stan Gourad. “That bothered us.” 

Southern Indiana finished 41.3 percent from the floor, 33.3 percent from 3, but scrambled to get to 70 points. 

“I thought we were more engaged,” Brey said of the early defensive focus.

∎ It may mean nothing when the big picture of this season is finally painted, but Laszewski earning his first league player of the week honor this week was something. 

Seriously. 

Laszewski came back in part because there were aspects about his game he hadn’t shown his first four years and believed he could show this season. He showed them the first two games, when he averaged 21 points and 11 rebounds. He started right from the jump, matching his career high of 28 points against Radford. On Sunday, he showed something different with a baseline drive and left-handed dunk. Hadn’t seen that his first four years. 

On Wednesday, Laszewski continued to build off the early league honor with another double double of 18 points and 10 rebounds. 

“Paul Atkinson, Blake Wesley and Prentiss Hubb are gone, and that’s good for you,” Brey said of what he told Laszewski this offseason. “The stage has been cleared out for you to be the star. It took me time to explain that to him. Like, we love all those guys, but they need to go for you to be the guy. 

“I love that he’s grabbed it.” 

Laszewski has responded. And delivered. The first week was affirmation for him that his game is in a good spot. He now is the one getting the first touch and the first chance to score in games. Like, let’s get No. 14 a touch and everything else will fall into its proper place. 

“Just try to be aggressive from the start, trying to score, try to make a play,” Laszewski said. “Definitely just try to stay aggressive at the beginning of the game.” 

∎ Game situations got a night off. 

That was good. No reason to sweat this one. Not even after Notre Dame saw its 21-point lead shaved to as few as eight in the second half. But the Screamin’ Eagles never got any closer, because the Irish (and guard Trey Wertz) had answers every time. 

First time out against Radford, Notre Dame trailed by three at the two-minute mark. Sunday against Youngstown State, it led by only three with 2:10 left.

“I’m mentally preparing us for hard games,” Brey said. “I thought we did a great job building. They put a little bit on us, but I thought we kind of responded.” 

Wednesday at the two-minute mark, Brey was thinking only about emptying his bench for the seldom-used guys to finish this one out. Every team needs a game like the one Notre Dame had against Southern Indiana. It would be nice to finish this early stretch with a few more. 

Nov 16, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Dane Goodwin (23) goes up for a shot as Southern Indiana Screaming Eagles forward Nick Hittle (50) defends in the first half at the Purcell Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Worth noting

The email dropped into various college basketball inboxes Tuesday at 12:46 p.m. That means by 1, Brey was doing a slow simmer. Nearly three hours later, he still hadn’t cooled. 

How could the John R. Wooden Award send out its Top 50 players watch list and not include Irish super senior Dane Goodwin? Entering Wednesday’s game against Southern Indiana, the guard had tallied 1,369 points, 541 rebounds, 169 assists in 3,764 minutes over 128 career games. He earned third team All-ACC honors last season. 

Goodwin was not among the 10 ACC players listed. 

“I see something like that, I just roll my eyes,” Brey said Tuesday of the Wooden Award snub. “It’s just beyond me. It blows my mind. I said, my man, with his body of work, was almost a 50-40-90 guy (for field goal percentage, 3-point percentage and free throw percentage) last year and was a player of the year candidate until the last week. He’s not on the preseason watch list?” 

Brey laughed as he spoke, but he was seriously unhappy. He believes he knows why Goodwin was not included. 

“I think they’re pissed at me because I pushed up on them before when I felt we had other candidates,” he said. 

That would be former Irish power forward John Mooney, who was racking up double doubles for points and rebounds in 2019-20 at a rate (a national-best 25) that the ACC hadn’t seen since the days of Tim Duncan. Mooney also was not on the midseason Wooden watch list. That bothered Brey then. This bothers Brey now. Mooney didn’t and Goodwin won't win the Wooden (the college basketball equivalent of the Heisman Trophy), but to not be ranked among the nation’s Top 50? Come on. 

After venting, Brey vowed to let it go. 

“I don’t care anymore,” he said. “I hope our guys don’t care.” 

Goodwin finished Wednesday with 14 points, three rebounds and two assists. 

Worth quoting

“These guys trust me; Coach trusts me and I worked hard all summer and the confidence is there now.”  Wertz on his quick scoring start (17.6 ppg.) the first three games. 

By the numbers

0:00: Amount of time Notre Dame trailed Wednesday, which hadn’t happened the first two games when the Irish were put into game situations late in each contest. 

0: Number of possessions that Notre Dame played zone with its core guys. Brey said afterward he thought it was a mistake to jump into zone too early the first two games. 

1: Irish walk-on guard Alex Wade scored his first collegiate point with a free throw in the closing seconds. 

1:24: Time logged by fifth-year senior Robby Carmody, his highest since playing 12 minutes on Dec. 4, 2019 in a loss at Maryland. 

3: Consecutive games in double figures for points for Wertz, a first for him in a Notre Dame uniform. He only had two games all of last year with at least 10 points. 

3:29: Minutes played for Irish power forward Dom Campbell in his first collegiate game. 

7:07: Time remaining in first half when Irish hit the free-throw bonus (seventh foul).  

8: All eight available scholarship players logged minutes the first 15-plus minutes of the first half. The Irish also saw their 17-point lead sliced quickly to 12 once they went deeper into the bench, which is why they don’t go deeper into the bench. 

20: Minutes restrictions for Southern Indiana big man Jacob Polakovich in his first game from a broken right foot. Polakovich scored 16 points with 10 rebounds in 22 minutes. 

21: Largest lead for Notre Dame, which arrived in the opening 14 seconds of the second half 

38: Days until Christmas, which didn’t stop a local FM station to switching over already to Holiday music. With snow falling and Burl Ives on the radio, the drive to Wednesday’s game felt kind of nice. Don’t tell anyone. 

68: Number of free throws Notre Dame has attempted in its first three games. 

92.3: Percentage that Notre Dame, the leading free throw shooting team in the ACC coming in, shot from the foul line (12-of-13) in the first half. It finished 23-of-28 (82.1 percent). 

Next up

Notre Dame closes out its stretch of three games in six days and four in nine with a non-conference home game Friday against Lipscomb (2-1), which is coming off a last-second home win Monday over Belmont. 

Notre Dame 82, Southern Indiana 70

SOUTHERN INDIANA (1-2): Lakes 7-11 2-3 21, Powell 1-5 1-4 3, Simmons 2-10 0-0 5, Solomon 2-5 6-6 11, Swope 4-10 0-0 8, Henry 1-5 0-0 2, Polakovich 7-10 2-2 16, Campion 0-3 0-0 0, Hernandez 0-2 0-0 0, Hittle 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 26-63 11-15 70.

NOTRE DAME (3-0): Laszewski 6-10 4-5 18, Goodwin 5-7 2-2 14, Ryan 2-7 7-8 13, Starling 4-12 2-2 10, Wertz 6-12 5-6 20, Lubin 2-4 2-2 6, Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Carmody 0-1 0-0 0, Zona 0-0 0-0 0, Wade 0-0 1-3 1. Totals 25-53 23-28 82.

Halftime—Notre Dame 42-25. 3-Point Goals—S. Indiana 7-21 (Lakes 5-7, Solomon 1-1, Simmons 1-6, Henry 0-3, Swope 0-4), Notre Dame 9-26 (Wertz 3-9, Ryan 2-3, Goodwin 2-4, Laszewski 2-4, Lubin 0-2, Starling 0-4). Fouled Out—Solomon. Rebounds_S. Indiana 34 (Polakovich 10), Notre Dame 30 (Laszewski 10). Assists—S. Indiana 14 (Solomon 5), Notre Dame 12 (Ryan, Wertz 3). Total Fouls—S. Indiana 21, Notre Dame 14. A—4,433 (9,149).

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.