The Notre Dame men's basketball team struggled early once again before coasting to an 81-56 victory over Division II's Caldwell University (NJ). For the second straight exhibition game, the Irish starters looked sluggish to start the game, allowing the Cougars to jump out to an 8-2 lead after some easy buckets. However, early moves to the bench paid off for Mike Brey, and the Irish quickly rattled off a 15-2 run to take control of the game.
Matt Farrell, who had quite an impressive game in the Irish's first exhibition win, was the first man called off the bench. He continued to look quite confident on the ball, and he knocked down some nice jump shots to build off his solid start to the campaign.
Although the Irish were never really in danger of losing this one, they never truly looked dominant against the hard-working Cougars, and they coasted into halftime with an 11-point lead after a largely uneventful first half.
The starters, apart from Zach Auguste, looked stronger in the second half as they extended the Irish lead. Demetrius Jackson consistently attacked the 5'8" point guard that was guarding him, scoring all of his 5 field goals at the rim. Steve Vasturia calmly had another great game, going 4-5 from the field including 2 of his patented swish corner 3's. He also provided his usual suffocating defense, and he was my game MVP. V.J. Beachem was the Irish's leading scorer with 13 points although his shot wasn't falling like usual, going just 3-9 from deep. Bonzie Colson looked strong around the rim on offense, and caused a lot of havoc on defense with a game-high 4 blocks. Zach Auguste didn't dominate the Cougar big men despite having a notable size advantage; he also struggled mightily from the line, hitting only 1-6 from the charity stripe.
Mike Brey gave significant minutes to all his bench guys who are still duking it out for minutes in what is usually a shallow Irish rotation. Freshman Matt Ryan continued to pull the trigger quite often from deep, going 2-5 from deep in his 15 minutes of action. If he sees time off the bench in the regular season, don't expect him to be very shy when he has the ball in his hands. Rex Pflueger was the first freshman called off the bench, and he threw down the first of hopefully many open court dunks in what was otherwise a pretty unremarkable game.
Although Martinas Geben was once again the first Irish big man off the bench, Austin Torres looked to be the more effective option, working the offensive glass for some layups and bringing manic energy on defense. Geben struggled receiving the ball in the post, which was discouraging for the second straight game.
Senior captain Austin Burgett received the least amount of minutes on the team, which may not bode well for his future playing time. Interestingly, he was introduced as "A.J. Burgett" by the P.A. announcer so we'll keep an eye on the possible name change moving forward.
Overall, it was a relatively straightforward if uninspiring victory for the Irish. The regular season kicks off on next Friday, November 13th, when the Irish welcome St. Francis (PA) to Purcell Pavilion.