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Thursday, May 23, 2024
The Observer

Niagara falls to Notre Dame

The (freshmen) boys are back. The much anticipated start to the men’s basketball season has come and gone and Micah Shrewsberry’s team is 1-0. Not only did we get to see this team’s ability to battle back from behind in their game against Niagra, the comeback was led by freshman point guard Markus Burton who had a record-setting 29 points in his first game. The previous scoring record for a freshman in his first game at Notre Dame was held by LaPhonso Ellis (27 points in 1988), who was in attendance Monday night. 

Burton was joined in the starting lineup by fellow freshman Braeden Shrewsberry, who scored seven in his debut. This marked the first time in 25 years that a pair of freshmen started a game for the Irish. Freshman forward Carey Booth didn’t start for the team but did see significant playing time and was the second highest scorer for the Irish. Don’t be surprised if at some point this season the Irish starts three freshmen. 

While the first game of the season ended happily for Notre Dame, it could have been a nightmare. After the first nine minutes, Niagara had an 18-8 lead, and the Irish could just not get anything going on offense. Burton scored his first three on an and-one layup. A minute later, Shrewsberry sank the Irish’s first three of the game to take the lead down to five. 

Notre Dame took their first lead of the game six minutes into the second period, lost it briefly with six and a half to go before Burton made a three pointer. The Irish never lost the lead again, and as Niagara fouled in an attempt to stop the clock, Notre Dame made five of six free throws. After a final layup by the Niagara point guard, the Irish came away with a 70-63 victory. 

Were Irish fans hoping to see a stronger start from the team? Yeah, probably. But Niagara did have a decent number of returning players from last season and ended last year with a winning record. Notre Dame is still learning to play together and while they did mount a comeback last night, this season cannot turn into “The Markus Burton Show.” If it does, better teams will double team him or make him foul out. 

It was only the first game, so there’s no need to overreact either way, but a more balanced offense will make this team more competitive in an ACC filled with experience and teams expected to be in the Top 25. There is still a ways to go before conference play starts, but the season could have a frustrating end if the team doesn’t play the way they did at the end of this game for the full 40 minutes of other games. 

The Irish host Western Carolina at 2 p.m. Saturday for their next match-up.