basketball Edit

Notre Dame MBB withers on the road against physical South Carolina

Irish sophomore Tae Davis (13) scored a career-high 15 points in Notre Dame's 65-53 loss at South Carolina on Tuesday night.
Irish sophomore Tae Davis (13) scored a career-high 15 points in Notre Dame's 65-53 loss at South Carolina on Tuesday night. (Notre Dame Athletics photo)

The film available on a completely revamped Notre Dame men’s basketball roster may be limited, but it was more than enough for South Carolina to map out an effective defensive plan.

Take direct aim at point guard Markus Burton – and get physical.

The Notre Dame freshman — who had been so effective through a 3-2 start, averaging 18 points a game — seldom found space anywhere on the Colonial Life Arena floor in Columbia, S.C., as the Irish offense withered miserably in a 65-53 loss in an inaugural SEC/ACC Challenge game on Tuesday night.



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“Right now, we’re easy to guard,” said Irish coach Micah Shrewsberry, who watched his team go 17-for-52 from the floor (32.7%), including 6-for-21 on 3s (28.6%). “When you get physical with us, we wilt. That's an older, stronger, more physical (South Carolina) team, and you know when they held us and grabbed us, you gotta run through that.”

The match for a Notre Dame team with limited game experience was its first true road game, and came in front of a crowd of 15,215.

Even when Burton — who was 2-for-8 from the field and totaled just eight points along with six of the team’s dozen turnovers — found some creases to get the ball inside, he didn’t have much help.

Trying to push the offense through 6-10 sophomore Kebba Njie, who got his first start of the year in his second game back from a hand injury, didn’t help.

He had a couple inches on the Gamecocks’ front, but it didn’t matter as they frustrated him with their heft. He was 0-for-7 from the lane and got to the foul line just once for his two points.

The most production inside came from Tae Davis, who was 5-for-8 from the field and had a career- and team-high 15 points with eight rebounds.

He just didn’t have enough help.

It’s been a surprise 6-0 start for the Gamecocks, whose best win of the early season came against Virginia Tech, 79-77.

They were picked to finish last in the 14-team SEC following last year’s 12th-place finish and 11-21 record overall, and Rivals ranked this year’s recruiting class 44th in the country.

But defensively, the Irish never got 6-2 junior guard Meechie Johnson under control. He went 9-for-15 from the floor (4-for-9 on 3s) and 7-for-8 from the free throw line for a career-high 29-point night, after averaging 14.4 coming into the game.

“We just left our guys on an island to play one-on-one with him, and then we lost him way too many times, or we didn’t have the right matchups,” Shrewsberry said.

The other big point producer for South Carolina was B.J. Mack, a 6-8, 260-pound forward who transferred in from Wofford. He came in averaging 16, and had 17 points, though he was just 1-for-5 on 3s.

Threes are a big part of South Carolina’s game after shooting almost 40% from long distance in the first five games. Against the Irish, the Gamecocks were 19-of-50 from the field (38%) with a 7-for-25 (28%) effort on 3s.

That decent work on the defensive end gave the Irish a chance.

Trailing by three at the half, they managed to cobble together enough buckets and defensive stops for a 38-34 lead with four minutes gone in the second half.

They hung on for another few minutes – a 10-footer by Braeden Shrewsberry, who finished with seven points, gave the Irish their last lead at 40-38 with 14:14 to play.

“They're finding the right guys who are hot,” said Micah Shrewsberry of the Gamecocks’ offense. “They’ve got a couple guys that will make you pay, and they're playing through them – B.J. Mack and Meechie Johnson. They kind of know what they're getting from each of those guys each night, and that's what we're hunting for.

“Who's gonna be our go-to guy? Who's our guy that can give us a bucket when tough times happen? And you know, until we find that, things will keep happening like this.”

After Braeden Shrewsberry’s bucket, the Irish didn’t see another field goal until Davis scored at the 6:41 mark on a layup and added a free throw for a three-point play to set the score at 51-44.

A Burton free throw made it 51-45 with 6:08 to play, but the Gamecocks took off from there, the lead growing to 14 – 62-48 – on two Mack free throws with 2:19 to play.

“When things get tough, we don't trust our system right now,” said Shrewsberry, whose team travels to Miami on Saturday for a noon ET game. “Offensively or defensively, we don't trust what we're doing to be able to stay with it.

“When they went on those runs … You’ve got to be able to go to something that you trust, you’ve got to be able to get a bucket in some way. Yeah, we're just not quite ready for that.

“We will be. This is gonna help us. We're only gonna keep getting better and better. I still believe in our guys. I'm never gonna lose faith in our guys, because we're playing freshmen and sophomores out there. … They're going to handle (these) environments if they play the right way. We gave ourselves a chance (tonight). We just let go of the rope for a short amount of time, and that was enough to put us away.”




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