SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — The seamless play of Notre Dame big men John Mooney and Juwan Durham together on the basketball court extended right into a postgame interview together.
“He took a page out of my book,” Mooney said in mock braggadocio of his teammate when asked about the 6-foot-11 Durham’s smooth and head-turning Euro-style drive to the basket during ND’s convincing 79-50 victory over Howard on Tuesday night.
“No, no. He’s a great player, and he can handle the ball and does a lot of things,” Mooney continued. “That was pretty sweet with the Euro.”
“Most definitely,” Durham kidded with a straight face when asked whether he’d like to be shifted to point guard after that display. “(Maybe) point forward. I’m just trying to go out there and be KD (Kevin Durant).”
Neither senior was that guy, but both were pretty good.
The 6-9 Mooney powered for game highs of 18 points, 16 rebounds and five assists as the Fighting Irish (2-1) rolled. Durham added 11 points, five rebounds, two blocks and two steals in 19 minutes.
“They love playing together,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “They’re two Florida guys, and they room together, so I think they really have a nice chemistry together. We’re learning how to be more efficient offensively with them on the floor (at the same time).”
Dane Goodwin also scored 11 points for the Irish, while Rex Pflueger tallied 10.
Freshman Wayne Bristol Jr. was the lone double-digit scorer for the Bison (0-3) with 14 points.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 7-0 lead and was never threatened.
“I think their size physically and their strength bothered us,” Howard coach Kenneth Blakeney said. “They were able to get into us, and we didn’t do a good job working to get open and executing our stuff. I attribute a lot of that to (Notre Dame).”
ND shot 51% from the field to the Bison’s 31%.
The Irish, who led by as many 34 points in the second half, built a 41-21 advantage by the intermission, fueled in part by edges of 26-4 in paint points and 8-0 in second-chance tallies.
Howard: The Bison were beaten down the floor, beaten inside and beaten on the boards during much of their only scheduled matchup this season against a program from a Power Five conference. Maybe those gaps close against the majority of their schedule.
Notre Dame: ND’s plus depth continued to show itself, encouraging for down the road when the season turns into more of a grind. There was little to no drop-off when the Irish made lineup changes among their top eight players. Subs Goodwin, Robby Carmody and Nate Laszewski combined for 26 points.
REUNION OF COACHES
The game brought Brey together with two of his former players in Blakeney, who is in his first year as Howard coach, and Bison assistant Eric Atkins, a former Irish star who spent the last three years on Brey’s Notre Dame staff.
“I’ve known Coach Brey since I was 13,” the 47-year-old Blakeney reflected. “We have a very unique relationship. It’s a little father-son, a little big brother-little brother, and we have a friendship also. . He’s always been there and been an amazing friend and resource for me.”
Blakeney said Brey remains “the same guy” he knew as a history teacher at DeMatha High School, from where both men graduated.
Brey recruited Blakeney to Duke when Brey was an assistant, and Blakeney was later an assistant to Brey at Delaware.
Brey said he was pleased with the aggressiveness off the bench that Goodwin, Carmody and Laszewski — all sophomores — continue to demonstrate.
Such was a problem for Goodwin last season as a freshman, according to the coach. Conversely, it’s never been one for Carmody.
“Carmody came out of the womb driving to the basket,” Brey said, “and knocking the (heck) out of people. He is a bull in a china shop. Is that a Pittsburgh guy or what? He just knocks the crap out of people, and that’s OK.”
Howard: The Bison head to Toledo, Ohio, for two afternoon games in three days, beginning Friday when they face Robert Morris. That’s followed by meeting the host Rockets on Sunday.
Notre Dame: The Irish try to make it three Men Against Breast Cancer Invitational wins in three tries when Marshall visits Friday. The MABC Invite is a five-team round robin taking place at multiple sites during the season’s early weeks.