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Notre Dame Opens Maui Invitational With Nail-Biter Loss To St. Mary's

Notre Dame battled St. Mary's all night but ultimately fell in the end

It had the feeling of a back-and-forth battle from the opening tip, and that is exactly what went down for Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s in the final game of the first night in Las Vegas. A strong second half effort by forward Paul Atkinson wasn’t enough to overcome a poor shooting night overall (38%) by the Irish – a trend over the first 3 games of this season – and ultimately falling to Saint Mary’s 62-59 in the weening seconds of tonight’s contest.

Head Coach Mike Brey and his newly implemented staff preached defense all off-season and for the most part that showed up today. However, one guy they had no answer for was forward Dan Fotu. Coming off the bench, Fotu finished the game 8-9 from the field and perfect from deep – including a go ahead triple with under a minute remaining that ultimately sealed the Irish’s fate.

So far this season, it has been the offense that has let the team down and Brey backed that up in his post-game comments. Seniors Prentiss Hubb and Nate Laszewski have yet to get going after leading the ND offense last season, and the duo combined for just 8 points on 2-11 shooting. Cormac Ryan was all over the court tonight and paced Notre Dame with 16 points including 3-5 from three – but a would be game-tying missed free throw on the backend of a one-on-one kept the Irish from possibly forcing overtime.

The team does receive a spark whenever freshman wing Blake Wesley enters the game, and he is forcing his way into a bigger role moving forward. He played 18 minutes tonight, and when he entered for the first time early in the game, he jolted the offense with a quick five points. He then brings the energy on defense with intensity and athleticism – something unique that only he provides to the lineup as it’s currently constructed.

Overall, this time fights hard. It was evident late in the first half when they fought back to tie the game going into the locker room, and it was evident the entirety of the second half when it seemed like Saint Mary’s could pull away a few times but didn’t – or couldn’t. However, that isn’t good enough right now for a team with the number of minutes accumulated over the past 4 seasons. Brey knows it. The players know it. Everyone who watches them knows it. It is only one loss on the season, but we’ve seen this rodeo before with this specific group of guys. Close wins have yet to materialize on a consistent basis, and expectations for this group are much higher than the past few seasons. Let’s see how it plays out the remainder of the week and non-conference play.

Notre Dame finds themselves in the loser’s bracket and will face off against host Chaminade tomorrow at 7:30 PM local time (10:30 PM Eastern) with the Silverwords losing handily to Oregon earlier in the day. 

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