Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey spoke after the 79-69 win over Syracuse on Wednesday night.
“I thought our defense was finally able to keep a really gifted attacking group, especially his sons. Damn, they are good players. I told Jim before the game, your sons are very good players.
“You have 19 assists and I thought we were really effective against the area. We made good decisions and believed we were going to win. This group thinks they are going to find a way to win. We couldn’t away from them, but we’ve made enough plays to win it.
“We’ve all talked and laughed about Hubb wanting to take big shots. Lowest and worst shooting percentage maybe in Notre Dame basketball history, but it’s in the air. and I’m kind of like, you know, it’s probably coming in because this guy has such good karma around him and believes that’s who he is.
“Paul Atkinson Jr. was fabulous. He was really good. He was able to get into that area and make plays. When you have 19 assists and just seven turnovers against – for Blake Wesley against that area for the first time – very impressive Very impressive in terms of shot/pass simulations, the Cormac Ryan movement, we made him emerge comfortably offensively.
“For Nate Laszewski to give us 17 (points) and 27 minutes when all he’s done before this game since the Wake Forest game was shoot for five minutes today. He wasn’t even in owning all the white shirts. Give him lots of credit.
“To get 13 league wins, 20 wins, a neat group. I know the Blue Devils had a barn burner and we’re still chasing. We’re chasing to stay focused on the day to day.”
On whether he felt Nate Laszewski was going to be able to go before the game:
“He ate something during the pre-game meal. We had the IVs in him. Nixon, our coach and our doctors, did a fabulous job. He really is a badass.
“I didn’t know we would get 17 points from him, but I knew we needed him to get ready and get some shots over the area, which he really gave us.”
On Blake Wesley and Paul Atkinson facing the zone for the first time:
“I’m so proud of Blake. I’ve had a lot of young guards completely paralyzed by the zone – sometimes until their freshman year, senior year. For him to just be calm and collected – now again, when you’re there with your sidekick Hubb, he sort of helps you. Talk quarterback up the zone and do his thing.
“For Paul, I didn’t know if we could feed him as much as we did in the post. It was an advantage. We even had him at the foul line to catch him. We told him like we told him (John) Mooney and different guys to really get on the offensive boards against the zone. He was really good at that.
On Prentiss Hubb:
“It was a clinic. A clinic offensively. I’m not going to get shot, I don’t care. Watch me lead us. He’s always been pretty good against the zone. We had a few wins in the Dome because he was good.
“It was an absolute clinic by a playmaker. Move over there, you get to the foul line, he talks on timeouts, ‘Blake, drive him. You don’t have to shoot him. Drive it.’
“Then he gets Joe Girard back. I think what helped us was we got 3/4 of the field back and zigzagged the ball handler a bit. I think he did a great job. is exhausting.
“He’s so much fun to coach. What a winner. What a leader.”
On feeling the team would play well against the zone:
“The book about us came after us and keeps us physically. Skilled guys, get on them, hustle them, challenge them, change them and put them to work.
“Now all of a sudden you have talented basketball players who have nobody in front for 60 possessions. It’s like a vacation. You get 19 assists because the group is through.
“We had different guys on the foul line. We were just playing basketball the right way. I told our staff before the game, don’t talk to our guys offensively. Don’t overwork them. Talk to them defense all you want, but we’ll find a solution. We’ll move them and we’ll have the right guys in the game.”
On the team able to hit late-game free throws during ACC play:
“It’s really mental. You believe. It’s a battle-tested group. The seniors took their beatings in first year and throughout their careers. They really believe.
“Paul and Blake have added to that core and they’re big believers – how to win, want to win and (want to) finish. We’ve always been a good free-throw shooting team and we’ve always been damn good at the end of the games. It’s been an incredible weapon for us.
“I’m shocked when we miss a free throw – any of our guys. I’m like pissed off when we miss a free throw. I just think anyone who plays can make free throws.”
On the luxury of being able to rely on the team to make free throws:
“You never look over there and say take him out of the game because they foul at the end. We had our two big guys and one of the assistants asked if we should put in another guard I said they were gonna make free throws.
“Now they’ve experimented with freezing a game from the foul line. If you’re a group that can’t pair up, then it’s starting to tighten up. This group has been really confident that way.”
On the satisfaction of this victory after last year at the Carrier Dome:
“I thought about that one a lot this week because it was a low point for us. We played for 25 minutes against the zone like we did for 37 minutes against the zone tonight, but we didn’t. couldn’t handle the pressure.
“They never really got to a place where they were really pressing us that much. We exorcised a few demons from last year and it’s another one tonight.”
On his ability to win tonight’s game with a rebound:
“It’s a special group that way. They really feel it. When you lose balls in that second half – and you know what helps us, when we play in front of our student body and they’re loud, he helps us and affects the road team.
“We’ve been in these situations – Virginia Tech – where the students are behind you.
“Cormac Ryan nose for the ball. Paul Atkinson Jr. nose for the ball. Nate Laszewski, Blake Wesley, we have more guys who have a good nose for the ball. Even Hubb has a better nose for the ball when he’s loose .
“Our two new guys can really chase the ball. Cormac Ryan can chase a ball.”
On the team being good in repeated games this year:
“When I think about Georgia Tech, we had to escape with an overtime win. We’re going to see a lot of area again. Maybe not if we had 19 assists. I don’t know what Josh (Pastner) has in store We played against a lot of zones there.
“I’m sort of watching it because we still have two home games for our fans. One for our student body because spring break is Pitt weekend and I don’t think we’ll have a lot of our students. I just really want to finish it for them. They were amazing and they really helped us believe.