Wednesday night, as the Maui Invitational Championship wrapped up five time zones away, Notre Dame men’s basketball played host to Maryland Eastern Shore at Purcell Pavilion. But while the South Bend, Ind. weather was characteristically cold, the Fighting Irish (3-2) were uncharacteristically hot from beyond the arc.
Behind a hot streak from freshman guard Braeden Shrewsberry (four first-half three-pointers), Notre Dame built a 16-point halftime lead over UMES (2-3). Junior forward JR Konieczny and junior guard Julian Roper II chipped in with Shrewsberry as the Irish went 7-17 from deep in the opening period. Notre Dame came into the game shooting just 22.3% from long range (345th out of 351 Division I teams), and Shrewsberry had gone just 4-24 from three in the previous four games.
The lead could have been bigger but-for six Irish turnovers early in the game, but Notre Dame’s defense held strong and limited UMES to 30% shooting in the first half to go along with forcing nine turnovers. And, for the majority of the half, the Irish offense (10 assists on 13 field goals) stayed composed against a Hawks defense that recorded the third-most steals in Division I last season.
Also of note in the first half was the season debut of sophomore forward Kebba Njie, who followed head coach Micah Shrewsberry from Penn State this offseason. Njie missed the first four games of the season with a hand injury, hence the noticeable wrap he was playing with on his dominant right hand.
Njie looked rusty in the first half, but he eventually made a slashing layup to notch his first points in an Irish uniform. He soon followed that up with a corner three-pointer as seemingly everyone got in on the three-point barrage in the second half: Njie; senior forwards Matt Zona and Tony Sanders Jr.; freshman guard Logan Imes; freshman forward Carey Booth; and walk-on sophomore guard Thomas Hattan all contributed to Notre Dame going 13-27 from beyond the arc.
If UMES had a chance to make the game competitive, it was in the rebounding department. The battle on the boards was neck-and-neck throughout the contest, although the Hawks held a distinct advantage on the offensive glass (12-5). However, it wasn’t enough for the visitors to make up for a 34% shooting percentage on the night.
The Irish lead ballooned to 26 with just under three-minutes remaining, at which point four of Notre Dame’s five walk-ons entered the contest. Every Irish player got to see the floor before the final buzzer sounded as Notre Dame rolled to a 75-55 win.
Braeden Shrewsberry and fellow freshman guard Markus Burton led the Irish with 13 and 12 points, respectively. Four other players scored seven points and eleven different players recorded a field goal in a complete team effort.
Next up, Notre Dame travels to Columbia, S.C. to take on South Carolina in the ACC/SEC Challenge. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. on the SEC Network on Tuesday, Nov. 28.