basketball Edit

Markus Burton's new high keeps Notre Dame MBB ascending with win over Wake

Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry, left, can continue to lean on freshman guard Markus Burton.
Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry, left, can continue to lean on freshman guard Markus Burton. (Matt Cashore-USA Today Sports)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Markus Burton should be hitting a wall by now.

The 5-foot-11, 166-pound freshman point guard has been carrying the offensive workload for Notre Dame men’s basketball since the season opener, in which he scored 29 points for what had been his career high until Tuesday night. Nearly four months later in Purcell Pavilion again, Burton carried the Notre Dame offense with 31 points in a 70-65 upset victory over Wake Forest.

“He’s been circled on the scouting report, right, since game one,” said Notre Dame head coach Micah Shrewsberry. “That’s hard to do night after night. I talked about Wake Forest having to get up game after game. He has to. He has to do it every single game. He’s just rising to the occasion, and he’s getting better.”



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The Demon Deacons (18-10, 10-7 ACC) were coming off a 83-79, court-storming win over then-No. 8 Duke on Saturday. But Wake Forest, which scored 43 points on 58.6% shooting from the field in the first half, saw its offense crumble to 22 points in the second half with no dominant scoring option.

On the other end, the Irish had Burton and a growing faith in his teammates to make plays when needed. Like fellow freshman Carey Booth when he caught a pass from Burton in the middle of the second half and drilled a 3 from the wing to give Notre Dame a lead for the first time in more than 16 minutes of game time.

Sophomore Tae Davis also came up big for Notre Dame’s offense. He made a couple of baskets taking the ball to the rim in the final four minutes. Yet his biggest play may have been an offensive rebound of a Burton shot that kept possession alive for an eventual Braeden Shrewsberry 3-pointer to give the Irish a 64-60 lead with 1:28 remaining.

“Had a really hard time guarding Markus Burton,” said Wake Forest head coach Steve Forbes. “He’s a really good player. Knew that coming in. But Booth and Davis hurt us. Davis hurt us late driving the ball against a guy that’s a pretty good defender for us. You gotta tip your cap to them.”

Booth scored 15 points with most of them coming behind the 3-point line (3-of-9) or free-throw line (4-of-5). He added five rebounds and two assists.

The 6-10 forward has come a long way since being benched for the second half of a home loss to Miami on Jan. 24. Booth scored at least eight points in four of the last five games for the Irish.

He’s worked on channeling his focus before games and being more assertive on the court.

“The more I play, the more it feels natural out there,” Booth said. “Taking the shots, driving, being physical, showing emotion. I definitely got more comfortable doing that.”

The Irish would certainly like Booth to be more efficient from the floor than 4-of-13, but his aggressiveness was necessary on a night that Braeden Shrewsberry was 3-of-13 from the field.

“He’s growing and he’s fighting,” Micah Shrewsberry said of Booth. “He’s finding ways even when he’s making 3s or not making 3s. He’s getting into the paint, hitting some pull-ups, trying to get to some post-ups and scoring. The different things that we’re working on, he’s trying to put it into his game.”



Notre Dame can’t rely on Davis to provide consistent offense with the defensive matchups he’s drawing every game. ND's defensive game plan typically starts with Davis drawing the toughest assignment and the rest of the defense falling into place from.

Against Wake Forest, that meant the 6-9 Davis had to chase around Wake Forest leading scorer Hunter Sallis, a 6-5 transfer from Gonzaga, who entered the game averaging 18.7 points. Sallis only managed seven points on 2-of-11 shooting Tuesday night.

“Tae’s kind of coming into his own a little bit — at different times,” Micah Shrewsberry said. “I always get on him about his consistency. You want more from him on offense, but it’s really hard to guard the best dude every night and then have some juice to go play offense on the other end. But that’s what he’s doing.”

On Tuesday, Davis contributed 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting from the field and grabbed six rebounds. His last bucket, which extended Notre Dame’s lead back to four points with 22 seconds remaining in the game, came in the post as he outmuscled 6-11 forward Andrew Carr. The two were whistled for dueling technical fouls for getting tangled up late in the first half.

The opportunities for Booth and Davis to impact an Irish victory don’t come without Burton steering the ship. He played under control on offense with his 31 points coming on nine field goals, two of which were 3s, on 15 attempts and 11 free throws on that many attempts.

“He just has that shot-making knack — it’s something you just have,” Forbes said of Burton. “He has elite speed, but he has change of pace. Some guys can play fast but can’t slow down and run into the wall. He can slow down. He can stop on a dime. Then he can shot fake and get you up. He’s just a hard player to play against. He’s a really good player. He’s one of the better guards in our league.”

It’s fun to watch from Booth’s perspective.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “It’s like no one can guard him. He gets wherever he wants effortlessly. It’s crazy. No matter who it is. We played Virginia, Reece Beekman. We played tonight against [Kevin] ‘Boopie’ Miller, great players. It doesn’t matter. He’s getting to the spot. He’s getting that bucket.”

The stat Burton was most proud of Tuesday was having just one turnover. He made an impact defensively, too, with four steals and one block. He added three rebounds and three assists.

“He’s seeing the game,” Micah Shrewsberry said. “The game’s kind of slowing down for him. He’s making his teammates better. He’s guarding and competing on the other end. He’s doing a lot for our team. That’s tough for a freshman.”

The head coach went so far as to publicly thank strength and conditioning coach Greg Miskinis and athletic trainer Nixon Dorvilien for allowing Burton and his fellow freshmen to look stronger as the season progresses. The Irish might be playing their best basketball of the season with four wins in their last five games.

“This is basketball,” Burton said. “This is what we do. This is what we do for fun. This is what got me here. We all knew coming into this game Wake Forest was a tremendous team, great team. … We were locked in from the jump.”

Notre Dame will close its home schedule Saturday at 7:45 p.m. EST against Clemson (20-8, 10-7) before closing with road games next week against No. 9 North Carolina (22-6, 14-3) and Virginia Tech (15-13, 7-10) ahead of the ACC Tournament. The Irish are looking to make some noise in this final stretch.

“As you see guys keep getting better and better, they still believe in what we’re doing,” Micah Shrewsberry said. “We want to keep doing it. I want to keep playing. As much as we can, I want to keep playing, because I love the direction that we’re going.”

BOX SCORE: Notre Dame 70, Wake Forest 65


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