From Notre Dame’s 58-49 win over UE Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion:
—C&P game story: UE can’t get ‘over the hump’ in Notre Dame loss
—C&P notebook: UE doesn’t break Irish’s home winning tradition; Jahr starts; Aces limit turnovers
—UE student Bryce Weiler: No luck of the Irish for Aces
—Notre Dame beat writer Tom Noie: Irish lean on defense
—The Associated Press: Cooley leads Notre Dame past Evansville
—UE shot 31 percent from the field, attempted seven free throws to Notre Dame’s 30 and was out-rebounded 44-33. Yet the Aces kept their final margin to single digits and, until the last five or so minutes in the second half, stayed close enough to threaten. Not bad, all things considered. Notre Dame will play in the NCAA tournament this season, coaches picked the Irish third in the Big East’s preseason poll, and Associated Press voters tabbed them 22nd. Next to Creighton, it’s the best team (on paper) UE will face all season. This will be the subject of my follow-up story in Tuesday’s paper based around the following quote from sophomore Ryan Sawvell: “We’re not that far from beating a team like that, I think, and that’s definitely an NCAA tournament team. Anything’s possible this season, especially within our conference.”
—Speaking of Sawvell, there’s been a push to move him to the four spot, but he looked good as a center against one of the best UE will see all season in Notre Dame’s Jack Cooley. Statistically, Sawvell notched a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds. In terms of defense, he bodied up Cooley to disrupt shots and riled Irish big man’s temper at times with physical play. The two do have a history, Sawvell said: “I played against him in high school a few times. I played AAU basketball with one of his teammates in high school, so I knew what kind of player he was.” What would be interesting to see? Sophomore big man Jaylon Moore and Sawvell on the court at the same time.
—While foul trouble bothered the Aces’ bigs, it also affected their guard play, which is going to disturb everything from how Troy Taylor and Colt Ryan selected shots in the second half to their ability to join in on help defense and rebounding. Ryan picked up his fourth foul with 5:57 to play Saturday, at which point Taylor subbed in, also with four fouls. Before Ryan re-entered, Cooley hit a pair of free throws, and UE didn’t come closer than nine points the rest of the way. Said Simmons: “We want to play fast. We’re better at that – when we’re throwing the ball ahead and attacking. I think that’s just something we’re going to have to continue to work on. We’ve got to get stops, and foul trouble probably dictated a little bit of that with Taylor being out because he’s kind of the guy who makes us go in transition.”
—It’s become an old subject already, and not one that needs to be analyzed after every game, but Saturday marked another intriguing chapter in freshman Egidijus Mockevicius’ introduction to Division I basketball. It was a short chapter, mostly because Mockevicius picked up four fouls in five minutes played. Two of the fouls on the defensive end resulted in Notre Dame free throw opportunities. One of the others was an illegal screen for which coach Marty Simmons didn’t blame the big man: “That really wasn’t his fault. Our cutters were leaving early. We’ve just got to be more patient. We’ve got to be tough physically waiting for screens.” Ultimately, Mockevicius didn’t show the same promise against Notre Dame as he did during the Illinois-Springfield exhibition — understandable with a guy like Cooley clogging up the lane.
—UE coaches will have a chance to learn plenty about their team’s rotation this week with three games in as many days, all against quality opponents at the Ford Center to complete the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Things are pretty well settled among starting guards Troy Taylor, Ned Cox and Colt Ryan, with D.J. Balentine and Jordan Nelson off the bench. There hasn’t been distinct separation at the frontcourt positions, however, with time at the four spot still split evenly between Lewis Jones (22 minutes against Notre Dame) and Jordan Jahr (20 minutes). At the five there’s Sawvell (27 minutes Saturday), Moore (eight minutes) and Mockevicius (five minutes).