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Mike Brey Transcript: Dec. 13

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Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey addressed the media today following the Irish's losses to Oklahoma and UCLA on the road and before the team takes on Purdue in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Check out what Brey had to say about the past week, the Boilermakers and more below.

Q: The last time you were in that building (Bankers Life) you said let’s see where you are the next time. Are you better now than you were then? And in what ways?
BREY: “In a tough locker room the other night in Los Angeles, I said what’s crazy is I thought we got better this week, but we don’t have anything to show for it. Let’s keep grinding and plugging. Since we played Cincinnati, we probably understand a little bit more of a who we are. That’s still a work in progress too.”

Q: How do you close out games? Who can close for you?
BREY: “I think we’re still searching for that, especially away from our building. We’ve been able to close out some here. That’s where I think experience and we’re still searching for that. Who are we offensively down the stretch? We had some not so smart plays on defense too, young plays. We’ve played young and inexperienced both games last week. You just can’t beat a pretty good team away from your building unless you play a little older and smarter. That will come by more and more experience with game situations.”

Q: You were worried about the psyche of the team if you all would have lost the Illinois game. How do you manage and massage that after the last two and going back to a building you haven’t had much luck in recently?
BREY: “For this group, it’s come in and teach every day, understand the big picture with this group because the younger guys want guidance. We have tried to come in every day, here’s what we have to do better, some things I need to help you with more and kind of flush it and move on mentality. That’s how we’re going to have to be with this group all year.”

Q: What do you have to do to beat Purdue?
BREY: “Matt Painter has done an unbelievable job with that program. When you look at their stats, what jumps out is half of their attempts are threes. They’re a three-point shooting team now after beating you up in the post with the big fellas all of these years. They’ve gone all the way the other way. It’s not just Edwards or Cline. They have other guys who can make shots. Getting out and defending the arc is really a key. We’ve played a lot of teams that have come through our beating that are three-point teams that we have to chase out. I’m hoping some of those habits will be consistent.”

Q: What do you have to defend Carsen Edwards?
BREY: “I think he’s a great story. Matt has done a great job with him. He was under-recruited and has gotten better every year. He’s going to get some and make some tough ones. A lot of different guys have to guard him. Do we double-team sometimes off the ball, screens…all of those things. You can’t get discouraged when he makes tough ones because he is one of those guys. Hopefully, you don’t have other guys light you up.”

Q: What’s been like seeing John Mooney step forward?
BREY: “I’ve been really proud of John Mooney … We’ve announced him as a captain. We’ve talked about that once we got back from Los Angeles. He’s been great as a leader in helping the young guys. I’m really thrilled with how he is playing. He’s getting more and more confident. He’s a new guy too and a new role. He’s a junior, but he’s in a new role too. We lost a captain in Elijah, and the one thing I would emphasize with Elijah is I appreciated everything he did for our young guys. He was a voice for our young guys … We lost that voice and then John was doing it. We felt to make him a captain now instead of waiting before the ACC.”

Q: What went into that decision?
BREY: “All of the above and more what he’s doing off the floor. In a lot of our team meetings when I come in, I will ask their feedback … John is one of the first guys who gives me feedback. He’s a junior now and been in the program. The one thing about him that you like is emotionally he’s steady throughout a game. I think that can help as we officially endorse him as a captain.”

Q: What’s that like when a guy hits that mark?
BREY: “I’ve used the phrase ‘the junior year light bulb going off.’ Here’s yet another guy in a junior year that we ask him to do more and he’s really delivering for us. The two areas I’m most impressed with is he’s gotten better with the basketball, handling and making plays. He’s become a much better defender. He’s been a good ball screen help defender.”

Q: What else can you build on from last week?
BREY: “Our offense in the second half, starting with the DePaul game, we’re averaging 43 points in second halves. We’re into an offensive rhythm. Can we get some of that into the first half? Overall, we’ve defended well enough to hang in there. A TJ Gibbs is trending the right way lately. He struggled early. I love the way Rex Pflueger is playing. He’s playing great for us and making some shots as well while defending and being good with the ball. Can we be a little better out of the gate offensively and take some pressure off the defense?

Q: What is your message to TJ Gibbs?
BREY: “For him, it’s not to rush, let the game come to him a little bit, get down the floor and spot up. We do have a good passing group and do that well. Don’t run to the ball, go spot up and get your feet set and don’t turn jump shots down. I still think he’s turning down some fun and shot faking and getting into the lane. He has to shoot those for us.”

Q: He’s struggled shooting, so is that in his head and why maybe he is turning some of those down?
BREY: “I think it’s him playing a little fast. He’s probably overly unselfish. He leads us in assists. He loves to pass the ball, and it’s not that I don’t want him finding people. Sometimes we want him to take the shot.”

Q: Thoughts on the practice facility.
BREY: “It’s been great. It’s been really energizing for our guys. We’re not in the offices, but our players are in the locker room. We’re in the lounge, the training room, we’ll lift in the weight room today … For the kind of guys that we get that will be here four and sometimes five years, it’s a better laboratory for guys like John Mooney to get better … They’re in here, they come back at night, all week studying up there and come down here to the court … It’s really exciting.”

Q: How does finals week impact these guys?
BREY: “With a young team, I’m not quite sure. This group really has handled their academic business well all semester. From talking to them, they are getting through the week well. They are invested. We scrimmaged last night kind of working the kinks out. They’re a little more focused today … Exams here takes its toll on guys physically and mentally.”

Q: The Crossroads Classic is typically your final Power Five test before ACC. What do you like about the challenges it gives you and what are those challenges?
BREY: “We’ll see if we can get one down there. We’ve been in position the past two years and couldn’t finish with two tough losses. It’s a great atmosphere. Sold out building and great energy. You’re always going to play a heck of a program and a well-coached program in Purdue and Indiana. It’s one last Power Five test and kind of a neutral site situation. Another chance for this group to group up. We’ve thrown them to the wolves a little bit starting with Madison Square Garden. It’s a little sink or swim and help them swim.”

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