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HOOPS Preview: Notre Dame vs. William & Mary

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BGI/Corey Bodden

NOTRE DAME (2-1, 0-0 ACC) VS. WILLIAM & MARY (1-2, 0-0 CAA)

Where: Purcell Pavilion (Notre Dame, Ind.)

Rankings: Both teams are unranked.

TV/Time: ACC Network Extra, 12 p.m. ET

Last Meeting: Notre Dame 90-45 (Dec. 30, 1982).

Series Facts: This will be just the second meeting all-time between the two programs.

Notre Dame suffered its first defeat of the 2018-2019 season on Wednesday falling 63-60 to Radford in South Bend.

The Irish will look to bounce back this afternoon hosting a William & Mary program coming off two-straight losses to Duquesne and Illinois-Chicago in the Gotham Classic.

Here is an overview of both programs heading into tonight’s matchup.

NOTRE DAME OVERVIEW

Wednesday night against Radford was a culmination of the issues for Notre Dame that weren’t exposed by Illinois-Chicago and Chicago State.

The Irish have an offensive problem right now. That should not be a huge surprise with the new faces on the roster, but the early season struggles of junior guard TJ Gibbs (29.7% FG) and senior guard Rex Pflueger (27.3% FG) have only furthered the issues.

Notre Dame is shooting just 38.7 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent behind the arc. Per KenPom.com, the Irish rank 261st nationally in effective field goal percent at 45.4 percent while ranking 267th in three-point percentage and 211th in two-point percentage (47.6 percent).

Against Radford, Notre Dame built a six-point halftime lead but was unable to hang on due to shooting 32.3 percent in the final half while allowing the Highlanders to hit 56 percent of their attempts.

Mike Brey started a new unit for the second time this season with Gibbs, Pflueger, wing DJ Harvey, forward John Mooney and forward Elijah Burns. The Irish shot 36.1 percent overall in the 63-60 loss, but the number drops to 31.1 percent when taking out Mooney’s 8-of-16 performance, which led to a career-high 24 points and 12 rebounds.

Despite all the struggles, KenPom.com has the Irish adjusted offensive efficiency at 108.1, which is good enough for 54th nationally.

Through three games, Mooney is now the team’s leading scorer at 13.7 points and rebounder at 8.0. Gibbs is the lone other double-digit scorer (10.0 PPG) while Harvey (9.3 PPG) is close. Freshmen Nate Laszewski (8.7 PPG) and Robby Carmody (8.0 PPG) round out the top five scorers so far.

So what does Brey do next? The Irish head coach started the different lineup and shortened what was a 10-man rotation to almost eight with Juwan Durham not playing and Dane Goodwin getting just three minutes.

He admitted after Radford that he is still searching. Could that lead to another lineup change or more mixing and matching with the rotation?

WILLIAM & MARY OVERVIEW

During the 2017-2018 season, William & Mary was one of the top offensive teams in the country averaging 85.0 points per game while shooting 51.1 percent from the floor and 43.4 percent behind the arc.

The Tribe ranked first nationally in three-point shooting and fifth in both points per game and overall shooting.

It isn’t anything new for the Tribe as the program has shot 48.8 percent from the field and 39.7 behind the arc over the last four seasons while going for over 80 points in the last three. Per KenPom.com, William & Mary has finished in the top 25 each of the past six seasons in effective field goal percentage.

Head coach Tony Shaver returns three of his team’s top five scorers from a year ago in center Nathan Knight (18.5 PPG), wing Justin Pierce (14.7 PPG) and guard Matt Milon (13.0 PPG). Pierce however was injured against UIC and may not play against the Irish.

The Tribe opened the year with a 10-point win over High Point (79-69) before falling in two-straight against Duquesne (84-70) and Illinois-Chicago (100-95). Shaver’s group is averaging 81.3 points per game this season, but giving up 84.3 points on the other end. Despite the struggles defensively, the offense continues to be fairly efficient hitting 47.5 percent of their field goals and 40.5 percent of three-point attempts. According to KenPom.com, William & Mary is 61st in offensive efficiency and 135th defensively.

Through three games this season, Pierce is leading the team with 22.3 points and 11.3 rebounds per game with Milon right behind at 17.7 points. The 6-foot-10 Knight averaged 15.0 points and 6.3 rebounds in his first three contests.

Shaver has played a young group after the upperclassmen trio with freshman guard LJ Owens also averaging double-figures (11.3 PPG). Sophomore guard Luke Loewe (4.7 PPG) and freshmen guards Chase Audige (4.0 PPG) and Thornton Scott (3.0 PPG) average over 15 minutes per game.

Freshmen forwards Mehkel Harvey (2.0 PPG) and Quinn Blair (2.7 RPG) are part of the rotation at forward at over 10 minutes per contest. Sophomore guard Jihar Williams is averaging under one point a game, but is playing about eight minutes each game.

GAME OUTLOOK

Containing William & Mary offensively will be a challenge for the Irish in this one, especially if Notre Dame continues to struggle to find a consistent rhythm. The Tribe however have struggled to stop anyone and Notre Dame allowed 67 points to UIC compared to the Tribe’s 100.

Both programs are coming off tough losses and will be aiming to bounce back.

Can the Irish finally put together a consistent offensive performance for 40 minutes?

Prediction

Notre Dame 83, William & Mary 72

Brey and the Irish staff push the right buttons and get a much better game from the offense and Gibbs. It wouldn’t surprise me to see the Tribe shoot it well for much of the game, but Notre Dame gets enough stops and takes advantage on the other end to pull this one off and get back on track.

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