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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

Men's Basketball: Notre Dame returns to action against UCF

The Irish will face one of the toughest tests of their non-conference schedule this weekend, hosting Central Florida at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday.

The Golden Knights are 6-1 in the young season, with an 84-74 win over Auburn the highlight of their year thus far. While this is the first true road game for UCF, Irish coach Mike Brey said he expects his squad to be challenged.

"I'm very impressed with their team, they're well coached," Brey said. "And it's a group coming out like us early, they're learning how to win. So you got a confident team coming in here on Sunday."

Notre Dame (7-1) has responded well to its first loss of the season, a 72-58 defeat to Northwestern in the Chicago Invitational Challenge. Since the disappointing loss, the Irish have rebounded with wins over Saint Louis and Idaho State.

Brey said after a loss like the one to the Wildcats, he doesn't focus on the failures in the game but on how the team will bounce back.

"I didn't talk about any breakdowns, what we didn't do. Real simple: I want to see how we bounce back," Brey said. "What's our identity after we take the punch? We're going to be in this situation a few times, how do we bounce back?"

Leading the Golden Knights is junior forward A.J. Tyler, who is averaging 10.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game. Tyler had 18 points in the big win over Auburn, and earned high praise from Brey.

"He's kind of like a Big East guy in my mind," Brey said. "A couple different guys have to guard him for us. A Scott, a Harangody, a Broghammer, possibly Abromaitis, different guys are going to have to defend it."

Leading Central Florida in scoring is 6-foot-3 guard Isaac Sosa, who has averaged 12.9 points per game. Sosa is 20-of-39 from 3-point range this season, and could be a threat to a Notre Dame team that has struggled at times defending on the perimeter.

Redshirt freshman Dave Diakite has provided the best low-post presence for the Golden Knights, tallying 9.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.

Brey said he wants to see improvement in areas on both sides of the court.

"I think sometimes we put it on the floor a little too soon," Brey said of the half-court offense. "I think a strength of ours is passing the ball and when we move it with limited dribbles we stir the defense up more.

"Then defensively, a little more ball pressure early in the game. Those are the two things we talked about coming back to work on. And then overall, I think you have to let this group keep playing together."

The Irish will tip off against the Golden Knights noon Sunday at Purcell Pavilion.