The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team officially opened the Micah Shrewsberry era with a 70 to 63 win over the Niagara Purple Eagles at Purcell Pavilion on Monday night. The young squad kicked off the season with a 96-62 exhibition game victory over Hanover College on November 1st, but this was the team’s first regular season game under their new head coach.
The Irish were led on the evening by freshman guard Markus Burton, a Mishawaka native and reigning Indiana Mr. Basketball who scored 29 points while shooting 11-of-20 from the floor. His scoring total surpassed the Notre Dame freshman debut scoring record set by LaPhonso Ellis in his first game in 1988.
Carey Booth (10 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block) and Julian Roper II (9 points, 4 rebounds) chipped in with great games for ND as well, and Braeden Shrewsberry also added 7 points. Forward Kebba Njie sat out the game with a hand injury and is day-to-day on being able to return to game action.
As a team, Notre Dame shot 51% from the field but just 18% from long range (3-for-17) for the game. They out-rebounded their opponent 35-29 while also only turning the ball over 7 times throughout the contest.
Niagara — whose head coach Greg Paulus will be a familiar name to many a Duke hater — was paced in scoring by Luke Bumbalough (14 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists) and Ahmad Henderson II (14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists), while Yaw Obeng-Mensah added 13 points, 8 boards, and 4 assists. They shot 42% from the floor and 41% from three-point range.
The Purple Eagles got off to a hot start in this one, jumping out to a 12-2 lead and holding a double-digit edge well into the first half, shooting 50% through the first 10 minutes of play. The Irish struggled to find the bottom of the net in the early going, starting 5-of-16 from the field.
Markus Burton got going soon after that, though, leading an Irish effort to cut the deficit to 5 points at the under-8 timeout. From there, the two teams traded baskets and played pretty evenly to halftime, with Niagara’s lead having shrunk to 30-29 at the intermission.
In the second half, the teams continued to go back and forth, with Burton and Shrewsberry leading the charge for the Irish. The latter finally hit the Irish’s first three-pointer of the game at the 14:28 mark of the 2nd half, with the team having gone 0-for-11 from deep prior to the shot. That tied the game at 38 heading into the first media timeout of the 2nd half. Soon after the break, Carey Booth drained a three-ball to give the Irish their first lead of the day with 13:44 to go in the game. The freshman big man was impressive in his official debut, all over the floor and showing great athleticism and length while nearly kicking off his time at ND with a double-double.
After a personal 5-0 run by Roper, the Irish had seized control with a 46-40 lead with just over 10 minutes to play. Paulus’ squad refused to go quietly, though, making a little run of their own and tying the game at 51 with 7:31 to go on a Bumbalough three-pointer.
As Bumbalough and others on Niagara continued to knock down big shots down the stretch to match what the Irish were doing, it only seemed to make Burton take it more and more personally, and the young point guard took over down the stretch, scoring or assisting on the majority of baskets over the next few minutes as the Irish retook a 4-point lead at the 4:25 mark, forcing Paulus to call a timeout to try to settle the crowd after a Burton finish on a fast break.
From there, ND began to pull away, with Burton and co. playing strong defense (Seton Hall transfer forward Tae Davis was especially lock-down down the stretch) and then relentlessly attacking the hoop on the offensive end, extending their lead and then ultimately winning comfortably by 7 after some garbage time free throws, sealing a 70-63 result.
With the victory, the Irish start the season 1-0 in a year that will likely feature plenty of losses and growing pains as Shrewsberry rebuilds this program with a young and promising — but also inexperienced — roster. Starting with a win is fantastic for confidence and morale in the early going of this 2023-2024 season, giving them something to build on.
They will play next on Saturday, 11/11 at 2 PM ET, hosting the Western Carolina Catamounts at Purcell Pavilion, looking to improve to 2-0 before they take on the Auburn Tigers and then either the Oklahoma State Cowboys or St. Bonaventure Bonnies in the Legends Classic in Brooklyn on 11/16 and 11/17.