Notre Dame focuses on defense against Bellarmine
Notre Dame needed a game on short notice and found one.
The host Irish's priority Wednesday afternoon against Bellarmine in South Bend, Ind., will be making defensive upgrades in a hurry.
"I don't know what those (answers) are yet," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said of defensive woes. "There's no question at that end of the floor we're just giving up too much too easy. It just puts too much pressure on our offense."
Notre Dame (2-4) is coming off losses to Duke and Purdue.
When Monday's announcement came that Tuesday night's visit to Syracuse had been scratched, the Irish looked to fill the schedule void. There was room for a nonconference game because of a previous cancellation.
About five hours later, arrangements were in place for a visit from Bellarmine, which is competing in its first season at the Division I level after being a Division II power.
This avoided a schedule gap for Notre Dame, which lost 88-78 Saturday to Purdue at a neutral site and resumes Atlantic Coast Conference play Dec. 30 against Virginia.
Brey said the Irish might assess using more zone defenses to combat some of the issues.
Notre Dame's offense has been going well at times, particularly with a fuller roster. Trey Wertz has played the past two games since the NCAA gave immediate eligibility to transfers. The junior guard played his first two seasons for Santa Clara.
"That's the first time we've had our seven guys that I'm counting on," Brey said. "I kind of liked that."
Wertz, who is roommates with teammate Prentiss Hubb, has given a boost to the Irish, averaging 18 points across the past two games. He scored 27 against Purdue.
"It really is staggering (what he has done)," Brey said, noting his points came without forcing things. "He plays the right way. He's a great addition to our group."
Wertz, who was in the starting lineup for the Purdue game, made more than 60 starts for Santa Clara.
Notre Dame is shooting 81.7 percent on free throws for the 10th-best mark in the country.
Bellarmine (1-2) hasn't played since a Dec. 9 loss to Chattanooga. Since then, the Knights had four games wiped off the schedule because of coronavirus-related issues.
"The biggest positive is our players are not satisfied," Bellarmine coach Scott Davenport said.
CJ Fleming of Bellarmine is expected to make his season debut Wednesday. He averaged 9.6 points per game last season.
Defending 3-point shooters has been a topic of concern for the Knights, who gave up 17 baskets from 3-point range vs. Chattanooga.
"We've got to have more aggressive close-outs and make the shooter put the ball on the floor," Davenport said.
Notre Dame and Bellarmine have a common opponent - Duke, which defeated both squads. Bellarmine's victory came against Howard, which is on Notre Dame's January schedule.
--Field Level Media