FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey wants his basketball team to stop making things more difficult at the start of games.
The Irish (10-6, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) have fallen behind at the start of all three of their conference games entering tonight’s game at Maryland (10-7, 2-2).
Notre Dame fell behind by five in the opening five minutes in its 79-77 victory over Duke on Jan. 4, and the Irish were down 4-0 in the opening two minutes of their 77-70 loss to North Carolina State on Jan. 7.
Their biggest deficit to start a game came when the Irish fell behind by 13 in the first five minutes in a 74-69 loss to Georgia Tech on Saturday.
I think we have to work on getting off to better starts, Brey said during Monday’s ACC teleconference. In all three of our league games, we’ve gotten off to kind of slow starts and have been digging out of a hole the whole game.
One of the main adjustments Brey wants his team to make is to be more selective with its shots. He also wants leading scorers Garrick Sherman (14.8 points per game), Eric Atkins (14) and Pat Connaughton (13.3) to be able to walk the thin line of starting aggressively but also be patient.
We need to be a little more patient, Brey said. If we don’t have it in transition, I don’t know if we have to shoot it 15 seconds into the shot clock. We’ve been pretty good in long possessions in the clock historically here where we move a team around a little bit.
I think at times Atkins, Connaughton and Sherman feel they need to jump start us individually, and it is a fine line because we need them to be aggressive. But we want them to make sure it is a great shot. If that takes a little longer in the shot clock, we will live with that.
Notre Dame also needs to pick up its play on defense to even its conference record.
The Irish were able to take the lead three times in the final 4 1/2 minutes against Georgia Tech, but they either allowed the Yellow Jackets to tie the game or retake the lead on the next possession.
We got key stops in the Duke game, the last 10 minutes. We have not been able to do that the last two games, especially Saturday in Atlanta, Brey said. We take the lead. We have a chance to get a stop and maybe go up two possessions on the road, which you have to do to escape with a road win. Whether we were in our zone or man, we just couldn’t get a stop. I think we have to be better there collectively.
Even though Brey sees plenty of flaws in his team, Maryland coach Mark Turgeon still sees a big challenge for his team, which is coming off back-to-back losses to Pittsburgh and Florida State.
They are dangerous because they can flat out shoot it, Turgeon said. We’ve got to guard better than we did (Sunday against Florida State on) Wednesday night.