Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Mike Brey isn’t surrendering, but after Monday’s 63-47 loss to Georgetown he’s re-evaluating which whiteboard goals to pursue and which to erase.
Irish head coach Mike Brey is considering a lineup change, among other things, after his team's 3-3 start to Big East play
The Fighting Irish dropped to 15-4 overall and 3-3 in the Big East Conference after the humiliating home loss to the Hoyas (13-4, 3-3). It was the third defeat in their last four games and the most obvious signal over a tough 10-day stretch that experience alone isn’t enough to keep up with the league’s elite teams.
As Syracuse (6-0, Louisville (4-1) and Marquette (4-1) pull away, Notre Dame finds itself among a congested chase pack — a group not so much concerned about a regular-season conference championship as much as putting together a respectable enough resume when it comes time for NCAA tournament selections.
“I threw [the possibility of a conference championship] out there and put that on us and was very public about it,” Brey said of his own preseason expectations. “When you’re looking at 3-3 and the way we’re playing, we’re a long way from thinking about that. I wonder if we need to start thinking about ‘that may not be realistic, fellas. We may not be able to get that.’ I don’t want to say that now, because mathematically there are still a lot of games left, but from my frame of mind — teaching and coaching this week — we’ve got to get back to simple stuff. Can we scratch out getting a bid?”
The Big East regularly produces a high volume of NCAA Championship bids, but securing one at least requires finishing in the top half of the standings. Notre Dame’s statistics at this point in the season suggest that pursuit will be a slippery slope unless significant improvement in all areas takes place in a hurry.
“I think we need to turn up our defensive intensity,” junior point guard Eric Atkins said. “They really bullied us and did whatever they wanted. If we are going to play like that, then we are going to come in last in the league. We need to get tougher defensively.”
Notre Dame's 47 points were the fewest since a 59-41 loss at Georgetown last season on Feb. 27. It was also the lowest point total ever for the Irish in a Big East home game and the fewest for the Irish in any home game since a 48-46 loss to Villanova on Jan. 19, 1982.
After pulling within three points midway through the second half, the Irish defense watched Georgetown rattle off 18 unanswered points en route to a season-high 53.3-percent shooting effort for an Irish opponent.
Notre Dame, which entered the game as the best shooting team in the league, hoisted shots without a shred of confidence Monday, finishing 17-for-49 (34.7 percent) from the field. Also coming into the contest as the league’s hottest 3-point shooting team, the Irish clanked 14 of their 16 attempts for a 12.5-percent success rate.
“It has to be a little bit of we’ve got nothing to lose with this team now — and [play] loose,” said Brey, who explained that a lineup change could also be in the cards. “I thought we played tight and we played with the weight of the world. Sometimes we have here because we’ve been so good and we’ve been expected to win all the time. We need to be really loose with nothing to lose — definitely in Tampa [Saturday against South Florida] and definitely when we come back. We’re really going to be off the radar now. See if we can just kind of go for it with no pressure.”
Some light shed on Martin’s health
One of the reasons starting guard Scott Martin received a sixth year of eligibility was because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee right before the 2009-10 season, which sidelined the Valparaiso, Ind., product for the year. Brey explained Monday night it might be a reason the swingman’s production has taken a nosedive this month.
Brey said Martin is having trouble with that knee after having two surgical procedures performed on it. That a second operation took place at all wasn’t made known until now. Notre Dame basketball media relations director Bernie Cafarelli confirmed Tuesday morning that Martin had “a minor procedure done earlier this summer.”
Now, through 19 games, the wear and tear has become an issue for the 24 year old. Brey wasn’t sure how much Martin would be able to practice moving forward. Over the last four games, Martin has scored just seven points on 2-for-11 shooting. He’s played less than 30 minutes per game nine times, including a season-low 18 against Georgetown.
That was Brey’s message to freshman forward Cam Biedscheid after an 0-for-8 performance Monday. The 6-foot-7 St. Louis native is stuck in a 5-for-26 slump from the field since the start of Big East play.
“The ones Cam had in transition in the first half, those were ones that kind of changed the climate of the game, and we didn’t get any of them,” Brey said. “And [Georgetown] banged down every one of them; they made every big one.
“Keep shooting. The first one was tough. You know what, maybe I shouldn’t have yelled at him that much. It was just such a key part in the game. We kind of talked about that the last two days, when his windup dribble is just not a good one. He’s got to be a catch-and-shoot guy for us. We need him to make shots because we haven’t got that consistently from really anybody else, and I think he’s our best pure shooter. I don’t want him looking over his shoulder; he needs to keep taking shots. I think for us to get where we want to get and get a bid, he’s going to have to be a shooter for us. I don’t want to overreact on that.”