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BGI Transcript: Mike Brey, Feb. 21

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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey met with the media on Thursday afternoon a couple of days before his team takes on Virginia Tech in South Bend.

Here is all of what Brey had to say below.

Q: You all played really good defense against Virginia and then Wake Forest scores 17 in the first five minutes. What’s preventing this group from being able to string something together?
BREY: “That’s been a frustrating thing for us. We’ve defended better on the road than we have here. I’ve talked to them about that. Maybe there’s more fear in your eyes on the road and you’re in a comfort zone here. The other night we gave up some second shots, but it was one of those nights where if we were going to win that we need to score 80. And it looked like we might with the way we started offensively. Sometimes if a team is scoring and we’re scoring, given how challenged we’ve been offensively, I’m okay with. When we can’t score early, it’s become such a burden for us.”

Q: So if you’re running up and down the court and exchanging, you’ll take it?
BREY: “That first timeout was 20-19 Wake Forest. We tried some zone and different zones. They were knocking them down, but we were too. I told the staff that I liked that we were scoring and let’s see if we can figure it out defensively. We just finished the half with such bad momentum. Prentiss Hubb getting that second foul hurt us because we had to get him out. Maybe in hindsight you don’t take him out. It’s hard for us to play without him and TJ on the court. They have to be out there.”

Q: Then you knew Brandon Childress would go off after going 0-of-12 against Carolina.
BREY: “The law of averages, which worries me about Saturday because Virginia Tech didn’t make a shot against Virginia on Monday. They’re a really good shooting team. You know Childress would bounce back.

“My theme with them was that we took two step forwards the week before with the win against Georgia Tech and how we performed at Virginia. We just never seem to be able to get a third step forward whether it’s three practice days or games. It’s who we’ve been. We just have to keep grinding.”

Q: How difficult is it to comeback with a message?
BREY: “You have to muster it up. You do. Sometimes you have to fake a little bit of the energy and enthusiasm. There have been times I’ve had to dig deep … The one thing we’ve talked about the last couple of days is almost doubling down on the playing time of Laszewski, Goodwin and Durham because of the future they present for us. They’re all playing and even though Juwan had the bad luck foul at the end of the half, Juwan was moving like he was before the injury. If we can get him in there more and get him flying around to end the season, that’s important. The other two guys had a really tough night. It was one of those nights for both of them. I told them this morning that they’re really good players and you’re going to play even more.”

Q: I know you’ve tried to monitor Mooney in between games…
BREY: “There’s some fatigue there. There’s no question. We’ve been able to the day after a game get him a little bit rested. We’re not practicing real long right now and we’re picking our spots with him. It’s one of those things you steal him a rest in the first half and you have this grand plan of doing so in the second half. Then the game is really fragile and he’s playing good, which then it becomes about do you use a timeout.

“There’s no question he has some miles on him. He plays through stuff and has been a warrior for us.”

Q: Can you get Virginia Tech to keep their point guard on the bench for one more game?BREY: “Knowing our luck, he will be back on Saturday. They are different without him. There’s no question about it. They still have shooters around the big guy. Blackshear is playing great right now.

“We have a bunch of upper-level and upper-division teams left. We haven’t beaten one of them yet. Our group should beat one or two of them before this thing ends. You have an opportunity on Saturday.

“What I remember about New Year’s Day the last time we played them, their 22-year-old seniors beat up on a couple of our young guys in ISO situations. That’s a tough one. Maybe we’re better to handle that six weeks later.”

Q: Young guys hitting a wall?
BREY: “There’s some fatigue. This is probably practice 100. We did stuff in the summer, so I think you’re trying to keep them engaged and understanding it’s the longest they’ve ever played.

“I’m thrilled with what Prentiss Hubb has given us. We couldn’t ask for me. He’s pretty much taken over the point guard spot before our very eyes talking and running our team. I’m thrilled with him.

“The three guys I mentioned before, I have to get them in a better rhythm before this season ends. That’s our commitment.”

Q: Hubb had a pretty good game until the last minute with some turnovers.
BREY: “He’s fearless and wants to make plays for us. Someone has to. He almost has to at the end of the clock sometimes. I can’t fault him for wanting to play downhill and wanting to have the ball to make the play to win it. Like he did against Boston College when he drove it in there. Someone has to have the courage to make the play. The kid has never been afraid. I’m don’t want him apprehensive even though he made a couple of mistakes the other night.”

Q: How are Rex Pflueger and Robby Carmody progressing?
BREY: “They do a lot together. Their rehab is moving along. I think Rex is very ahead of schedule. He is a machine workout wise. Robby is moving. The great thing about Robby is it’s not a leg, so he can do things on the bike and run. They’re joined at the hip. I look through the glass during practice and they’re in there doing stuff with our people.

“Robby will be cleared when summer school starts June 15. We were talking about Adrian Peterson when he came back from an ACL and it blew all the medical people’s minds. Don’t be surprised if Rex does kind of the same thing. He’s a machine. His body has responded well.

“It’s amazing how you come back from an ACL now. They kind of brush it off and come back. You look around and a lot of our athletes have that zipper on the knee. Then they’re back and bouncing around. Rex will be around in the summer and probably be jogging. October to November, I bet you he is playing basketball. We miss him.”

Q: That’s leadership, right?
BREY: “There was an edge. Even though Rex was shooting it better, Rex is a guy who may not make a three the whole game, but then with a few minutes left he makes one to give you the lead. He makes every free throw, takes the ball out of bounds and we know he is around to tip it in to win games … I’m glad he comes back for his sake and ours. What a turnaround for our league with what we have here then jump right on a plane to Tallahassee and those guys are rolling. Here we go.”

Q: Did you see Duke vs. North Carolina?
BREY: “I did watch that last night. What a crazy start with Zion going down with the shoe. We have not had that with an Under Armour shoe. I can say that. The happiest people are Under Armour and Adidas. They came in and we’re high fiving in their board rooms today.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. The thing I told our staff is the Zion Williamson thing has been unbelievable for basketball. It’s actually had people turning on regular season games, which we have not had the best of followings. If he doesn’t play in the NCAA Tournament, that is a big letdown for our biggest spectacle. Hopefully he is back.

“Now when I watch Carolina, I look back and think our transition defense in Chapel Hill was really good. They were really bearing down on those guys. I felt better about how we defended. They are both really good teams.”

Q: What do you think when you hear people saying Zion Williamson shouldn’t come back?BREY: “I see it both ways now. Five years ago I would have been like come back and finish for your team. Given the business side of this now and I’ve had some guys make some money playing the game, I can see why families would shut it down.

“We know he is a freak of nature, but I think people love his personality. He’s handled everything we grace. He’s a good teammate and plays with class on the court. I would think he wants to come back and compete. I don’t know him as we didn’t recruit him, but I look and think he would want to play in the tournament.”

Q: After your game with Duke, Coach K said he was the greatest kid in the world to coach.
BREY: “It’s a great story. The LeBron comparisons are very valid. When you’re a phenom at age 11, which both of them were, and you handle with grace your whole life, that’s pretty good. I have the utmost respect. For college basketball, I hope he comes back because he’s been a shot in the arm.”

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