basketball Edit

Auburn's talent, depth proves too much for Notre Dame men's basketball

Notre Dame guard Markus Burton (3) finished 4-of-20 from the field in an 83-59 loss to Johni Broome (4) and Auburn.
Notre Dame guard Markus Burton (3) finished 4-of-20 from the field in an 83-59 loss to Johni Broome (4) and Auburn. (Brad Penner-USA Today Sports)

Two for 26.

That’s 7.7%.

The 3-point shooting that involved eight different players was painful to watch — and fatal to a rebuilt Notre Dame men’s basketball team desperately trying to hang with a deeper, stronger, heavily favored Auburn team in the Legends Classic at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., Thursday night.

A 13-0 Auburn surge to start the second half ruined a nice first half comeback for the Irish and snowballed into an 83-59 loss that sent ND (1-2) into Friday’s consolation game against Oklahoma State at 4:30 p.m. EST (ESPNU).

“I thought we got beat by a better team, a more physical team, a more talented team, a team that played harder than us,” said ND head coach Micah Shrewsberry.

“We had a few guys play real well, play the way we’re trying to play as a group, but we need to see more guys do that.”



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One of those pleasant surprises of the evening for Shrewsberry, who’s looking for anyone to step up and contribute some offense, was South Bend (Ind.) Saint Joseph product J.R. Konieczny.

The 6-6 junior, who was red-shirted last year and played little as a freshman, had a career night.

He didn’t start, but went 7-for-11 from the field and totaled a game-leading 18 points, several buckets coming on putbacks as he worked his way to a team-high 11 rebounds, including six on the offensive side. Three of his misses came on 3-point attempts. He had averaged only a couple points through the first two games, but was on the floor for 30 minutes Thursday, well above his average of 10 minutes played through the first two games.

Thursday’s contest turned in the first few minutes of the second half after Notre Dame cut into an early 15-point deficit to get within 39-33 by halftime.

That comeback, ironically, was fueled by the only two threes of the night — by Braeden Shrewsberry late in the first half — and some surprisingly impressive work on the boards that produced a 21-13 edge, including nine on the offensive glass.

And that was without 6-foot-10 forward Kebba Njie on the floor. The sophomore transfer from Penn State remained on the sidelines with a hand injury.

The Tigers, who had 10 players score in the first half, got serious in the second half with a 22-14 rebounding advantage to make it even for the game at 35.

Still, not a bad effort for the Irish against a team that was expected to dominate inside —it had averaged seven more than its two opponents — an 88-82 loss to Baylor and 86-71 victory over Southeastern Louisiana.

Eighteen seconds into the second half, Auburn’s talented 6-1 freshman, Aden Holloway, a McDonald’s All-American, dropped in a 3 on a second-chance opportunity. The next bucket was an alley-oop dunk by 6-10, 240-pound Johni Broome, considered one of the better big men in the country, who came in averaging 17 points and 11 rebounds a game. He finished with 15 points and six rebounds in just 19 minutes as he navigated foul trouble.

But depth is no issue for Bruce Pearl’s 10th Auburn team that was picked in a preseason media poll to finish sixth in the 14-team SEC, following last season’s 21-13 mark.

Five players reached double figures and six different players had at least three rebounds. Ten players had at least 13 minutes on the floor.

The Irish can’t match that kind of talented depth and Auburn’s stout man-to-man defense eventually took over.



It didn’t help that Holloway kept burying threes. He finished with 15 points and was 4-for-5 from 3-point range to lead a 9-for-20 showing from the arc as the Tigers easily found gaps and open shots in Notre Dame’s defense – mostly man-to-man with a little zone.

Through the first 11 minutes of the second half, the Tigers were shooting at a 68 percent rate and finished at 53.4% for the game.

Notre Dame was at 34% for the game, going 19-for-36 on two-point field goal attempts.

Freshman point guard Markus Burton, averaging 23 points and shooting at a 48.6% clip from the field coming in, had a rough outing (4-for-20) and wound up with a dozen, four of those on free throws.

Trying to get any kind of offense going, Burton regularly worked his way into the lane only to be met by much bigger bodies and talented defenders. The Tigers finished with five blocks.

“Markus has the ability to attack, but it’s also not high school,” Shrewsberry said of the Auburn defenders inside. “He’s got to learn from his mistakes … He’s got to find other guys … When he figures that out, he’s going to be a really, really good player, because he can get by people and get in the lane. But now he’s got people waiting for him.’’

Carey Booth, Notre Dame’s 6-10 freshman forward, had averaged 15 through the first two contests but went without a make in seven field goal attempts.

Tae Davis had eight of his 13 points in the first half to help keep the Irish close and contributed six rebounds. Braeden Shrewsberry finished with 10 points.

“We weren’t going to be our best on Nov. 16,” Micah Shrewsberry said. “If we can learn from nights like this, then we’ll keep getting better.”

BOX SCORE: Auburn 83, Notre Dame 59


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