Another long game around the rim and on the scoreboard for Irish men

Tom Noie
ND Insider
Dec 21, 2022; Athens, Georgia, USA; The Georgia Bulldogs bench reacts as they defeat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Three quick thoughts and other news and notes and anecdotes following Sunday’s men’s basketball game between Georgia and Notre Dame, won by the Bulldogs, 77-62, in front of 3,087 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. 

∎ You can fume over the repeated baskets right at the rim by the other guys, and you’d be right. 

You can stew about the turnovers, as in, far too many of them. And you’d be right. 

You can wonder about getting pushed around yet again by a team that Notre Dame has no business being pushed around by, and you’d be right. 

But this one, this lopsided loss to a middle-of-the-road or better yet, bottom of the Southeastern Conference team, came down really to one play. That’s where this one eventually swung away from Notre Dame (7-4). 

Just over seven minutes remained, and Notre Dame, which had trailed by 10, was on one of those runs. Scoring. Defending. Rebounding. Getting out in transition. Looking good. Believing. Making it a game again with seven straight points, including a pair of big buckets from freshman guard J.J. Starling. A Nate Laszewski 3 brought the Irish back within three and capped the 7-0 spurt. 

One stop, and it really gets interesting. 

Notre Dame got that stop, except it didn’t finish the possession by securing a defensive rebound. It looked like Starling might’ve been able to get to the loose ball, but Georgia was quicker to it. Story of the half. Story of the game. 

It all led to a Justin Hill 3 to double the lead back to six.  

It also marked the beginning of the end for the Irish. Georgia scored the next 11 points to balloon its lead to 14. Notre Dame committed three turnovers in less than three minutes. It couldn’t score. It wouldn't defend. It didn’t compete. 

“You get it to three and you’re kind of celebrating,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “And you don’t put your chest on a guy or take a charge. 

“Until we learn that, we’ll probably keep losing.” 

∎ This isn’t a Dane Goodwin knock, even after the super senior guard made one of seven shots and fouled out. 

This isn’t a Marcus Hammond knock, even after the super senior guard had more turnovers (three) than points (two). 

This isn’t a Trey Wertz knock, even after the super senior guard had more turnovers (three) than field goals (two). 

But in this system, this season, old guys who are expected to do a lot every single night — as Goodwin and Hammond and Wertz are — cannot have nights like they did Sunday if Notre Dame is to have a chance. Against anybody. 

Goodwin has to be better, and make shots that he usually makes. Hammond has to be better even if it’s only his fourth game back from a knee injury. Wertz, as the main handler, cannot play like he played late in the first half Sunday, when he looked like he’d never seen pressure defense in his basketball life. 

Much is given to this group of old guys this season for Notre Dame. That means much is expected. Even demanded. It’s just the way it is. When those old guys don’t deliver, regardless of the reason, you’re going to get what the Irish got on Sunday. Which leads to this... 

∎ Yes, interior defense remains an issue after Georgia scored 40 points in the paint one game after Marquette went for 50. 

Yes, rebounding remains an issue after Notre Dame was outrebounded by 10, including eight on the offensive end. 

Yes, taking care of the ball is still optional for a program that had long taken care of it. 

But address all of those problems, or get better even in one area, and you’re still left with a concern that has flown under the radar in the last three Notre Dame losses — to Syracuse, to Marquette and to Georgia. 

Defense or no defense, rebounding or no rebounding, turnovers or no turnovers, Notre Dame is not beating any good team — or any average team — by scoring 61 points like it did against Syracuse, or 64 points against Marquette or 62 as it did on Sunday. 

“Their defense, their physical defense and their athletic defense took us out of scoring maybe as well as we needed to today to get a win,” Brey said. “I was worried that this could happen and we could get beat up by their physicality.” 

There are issues everywhere with this team, but perhaps the most perplexing is its inability to find any kind of consistent offensive rhythm. It can’t do what it’s long been able to do — score — no matter how bad the interior defense or ball security or coaching or anything else. 

Notre Dame might not be able to fix its lack of size, but it better figure out how to routinely get to at least 70, 75 or 80 points, or this season is going to become one long slog of losses. If that means a change in the starting lineup, change it. If that means a change in the rotation (more bigs, fewer guards), change it. If that means benching a veteran that might need to be benched, bench him. 

Notre Dame can’t let this season get away without showing what it has rarely shown — fight. 

“They may have to lose more until it really stings them,” Brey said. 

Worth noting

Brey has seen and done and won and lost a lot during his 23 seasons at Notre Dame, but Sunday was a first in that he coached against someone whose father hired him at Notre Dame. 

In July 2000, former Notre Dame athletic director Kevin White hired Brey as the program’s third coach in as many seasons. White’s son, Mike, is the head coach at Georgia after the previous seven seasons at Florida. 

“That is a real interesting dynamic with Michael White,” Brey said last week. “I’ve gotten to know him by way of Kevin and I’ve got the utmost respect for him. He's really one of the good guys in the profession.” 

Brey termed the dynamic between the head coaches Sunday “a little weird.” Kevin White and his wife, Jane, sat in the first row behind the UGAS bench. 

The 45-year-old White’s younger brother, Danny, currently the athletic director at Tennessee, was a walk-on guard for Brey’s team for two seasons (2000-02). Brey said that Mike White was interested in attending and playing for Notre Dame coming out of high school, but the men’s program took another point guard that year — Doug Gottlieb. 

Insert your own Gottlieb comment/joke here. 

Mike White played four seasons (1995-1999) at Mississippi before getting into college coaching. 

Worth quoting

“We had a hard time dealing with them inside, with their physicality. We knew that could be a problem and it certainly was.” — Brey 

By the numbers

0: Wins for the Irish away from home this season 

2: Notre Dame saw its two-game win streak against the SEC snapped. The Irish beat Alabama and Kentucky last season. 

6: Number of Irish who finished with two or fewer field goals. 

8: Georgia fielded its eighth different starting lineup against Notre Dame. The Irish have started the same five in all 11 games. 

10.7: Average margin of defeat this season for Notre Dame, which has been beaten by double figures in three of its four losses. 

15: Turnovers committed by Notre Dame, a season high and the sixth game this season the Irish have finished with at least 10 turnovers. 

18: Number of fouls committed Sunday by the Irish, who came into the contest leading the nation in fewest fouls per game (11.6). 

23:40: Time Notre Dame trailed Georgia. That included the final 3:16 of the first half and the entire 20 minutes of the second half. 

33: Combined points for Georgia forwards Matthew-Alexander Moncrieffe and Braelen Bridges, who also tag-teamed to finish 15-for-15 from the floor. 

Next up

Notre Dame remains on the road and headed Sunday night for northwest Florida, where it will spend two days in preparation for Wednesday’s return to Atlantic Coast Conference with a game against Florida State (3-10 overall; 1-1 ACC). 

Notre Dame had workouts planned Monday and Tuesday for Florida State’s practice facility, which sits adjacent to the Donald L. Tucker Center. 

The Seminoles opened league play with a loss at Virginia before a home win over Louisville. The Irish lost their league opener Dec. 3 at home to Syracuse and look to avoid an 0-2 league start for the first time since 2020-21. Wednesday’s game tips at 8:30 p.m. eastern time. 

Georgia 77, Notre Dame 62

NOTRE DAME (62): Laszewski 7-10 2-2 20, Goodwin 1-7 0-0 3, Ryan 5-9 2-3 15, Starling 6-14 0-0 14, Wertz 2-5 1-1 6, Lubin 1-5 0-0 2, Hammond 1-3 0-0 2, Campbell 0-1 0-0 0, Zona 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-54 5-6 62.GEORGIA (77): Moncrieffe 6-6 3-4 15, Bridges 9-9 0-1 18, McBride 0-4 0-0 0, Oquendo 1-6 5-6 7, Roberts 4-10 0-0 10, Abdur-Rahim 3-8 5-5 12, Hill 2-3 4-4 9, Holt 0-3 0-0 0, Anselem 0-0 0-0 0, Lindsay 2-4 0-0 4, Ingram 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 27-54 19-22 77.Halftime: Georgia 41-36. 3-Point Goals: Notre Dame 11-23 (Laszewski 4-7, Ryan 3-5, Starling 2-5, Goodwin 1-2, Wertz 1-3, Lubin 0-1), Georgia 4-17 (Roberts 2-4, Hill 1-2, Abdur-Rahim 1-4, Ingram 0-1, Holt 0-2, McBride 0-2, Oquendo 0-2). Fouled Out: Goodwin. Rebounds: Notre Dame 24 (Ryan 6), Georgia 35 (Abdur-Rahim 11). Assists: Notre Dame 12 (Goodwin, Ryan 4), Georgia 14 (Roberts 5). Total Fouls: Notre Dame 18, Georgia 11. A: 3,087 (18,118).

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