Mike Brey, JJ Starling, Cormac Ryan speak after win over Louisville

SOUTH BEND – For once, everyone associated with the Notre Dame men’s basketball program was in a relaxed mood. After the Irish’s 76-62 win over Louisville, there wasn’t a frown in sight.

JJ Starling (22 points) and Cormac Ryan (11 points, career-high eight assists) came out first to talk about games that undoubtedly will be on their season highlight reels. Then, Mike Brey, fresh out of the suit he wore for the game celebrating Coaches vs. Cancer at Purcell Pavilion, took his turn at the podium.

Make no mistake: A convincing win over the worst team in the ACC doesn’t do a whole lot in the grand scheme of things. However, the Irish needed something good in the worst way. They got it, and they have a whole week to enjoy it before reconvening at Purcell Pavilion against Wake Forest.

Here are some of things players and coach said as they basked in an enjoyable afternoon:

Ryan on how the team felt about the win

“Yeah, it felt good. It felt real good to not only get a win, but get a win playing good basketball with 16 assists, three turnovers. That’s Notre Dame right there, and we got a win in our fashion.”

Ryan on setting his career high in assists

“Yeah, I got some tricks up my sleeve. Look, in order to get an assist, guys gotta make shots, and we got talented guys who were knocking down shots tonight, and I’m happy to do my part.”

Starling on his strong game

“Honestly, I was just having fun. And like (Cormac) said, tonight just happened to be our night. We needed it. Shots were falling. I don’t think I did anything the first couple of minutes, but I was seeing the ball go in. My teammates were making shots, and I just got my energy up, and I just started hitting as well.”

Starling on his steal, dunk and celebration to end the first half

“Honestly, I was just glad to be able to dig in defensively and end the first half right with a dunk. It just happened to be a dunk – a steal and a dunk. So it just felt great to be able to do that.”

Ryan on the team taking a 30-point lead

“I mean, it feels good. I wouldn’t say we were surprised. I think we never lost faith in this group. We all know what we’re capable of. Louisville’s a good team. They play a lot of teams tough, and so being able to go out and execute, it’s a good feeling, but we looked at the scoreboard, and it wasn’t like, ‘We’re happy to be here’. It’s like, ‘This is where we should be, and this is what we know we can do’.”

Ryan on the below tweet projecting him as an NBA Summer League candidate

“I’m focused on the season right now, and whatever comes my way towards the end of the season and beyond, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Starling on what he's been working on lately

“Honestly, I’ve been in the gym working on my shot ’cause I know I’m capable of that. (I’m) just battling a little shoulder injury, getting that right, but yeah, just making sure my shoulder’s loose, and I’m good to go. The managers do a good job helping me get shots up and just staying loose, having fun.”

Starling on how his injured shoulder was treated before the game

“Honestly, we did something different instead of the same thing. We just put some cream on it, massaged it, that’s all. Just keep it loose, keep it free, and it just happened to work, I guess. I think we gotta stick with it.”

Ryan on the team committing only three turnovers

“We were just confident with (the ball), and I think being confident against pressure, being strong with the ball and being aggressive against pressure is important. And we were flowing and taking care of the ball and that really helped us.”

Starling on whether this game will inspire high-scoring games for him going forward

“Honestly, I just want to do my job to get wins. Whether I need to score, like I did tonight, or I get five points, I just want to do my job, do my part, and that comes defensively first. So if I happen to get steals and score or something like that, then so be it, but I just want to do my part.”

Brey's opening statement

“We certainly needed (the win). I mean, you have 11 assists and no turnovers (in the first half), you could go five-on zero for 10 minutes in practice, and somebody would throw it away. So that was really efficient, and I thought we were pretty good defensively, very good defensively in the first half. We played a little bit of this matchup zone, and that’s kind of helped us. Nothing like putting it on the blackboard at halftime of the NC State game. That’s kind of how we worked into it. It helps us a little bit protect the paint, also makes a quiet team talk more. … They’re not the most verbal vocal guys. Cormac certainly is, but it makes them talk more, and we need that. But we’ll take it, man.”

Brey on the injured Ven-Allen Lubin

“I would hope he’ll be ready to go next Saturday (against Wake Forest). That’s been really frustrating. Just when the kid gets some momentum, and I thought he played really well in Raleigh the other night, he tweaked it yesterday. When you think about him, it’s been the retina, the eye. It’s been the broken nose. He’s just not been able to get going. But I thought Dom gave us good stuff, and we’re gonna invest in him, and maybe, we have to invest in him more if Ven’s not back.”

Brey on Starling's development

“Why can’t he be in the process of just getting better as a young player? … He’s really sharp, he’s pure, he wants to be coached. I thought to myself about a month ago, ‘There is a process here with him.’ And I think maybe a light bulb’s gone on a little bit for him on a lot of ends, and he’s just kind of playing. He’s got good older teammates that have been good to him and helped him.”

Brey on the process of Starling's development

“Probably understanding how to be focused on a daily basis in practice and throughout a game. And I find myself with a lot of our young players through the years learning how to be a man in your preparation. And I think he’s, in the last couple of weeks, learned how to focus more, how to do pre-practice stuff better with coach (Antoni) Wyche, and that’s all part of growing up.”

Brey on how Starling's performance can empower him

“I think for him, confidence and getting confident. And I think at some point, he probably said we’ve tried to keep him loose. I think he made a comment about being loose. But we want him attacking and going for it. And actually, I thought against NC State, he was attacking and going for it, and he’s on the backboard. I know he’s more physical when the rebounds are up. I think he had seven at State, he had six today, I believe. … You see what he can do physically, and I think he’s learning. He’s learning that that’s an amazing weapon and advantage that he has. He doesn’t know that every day, but he’s (a) really, really gifted young man physically.”

Brey on the 30-point second-half lead

“I was doing a double take a couple of times, quite frankly. We haven’t had that kind of margin in a while. But we were good with the ball. (Louisville) didn’t pressure the ball as much in the half-court, so we were able to move it a little bit freer. And when we can do that, we’re really good with it. Now, when they did come out and get out and trap us, I thought we were really good against the traps and the press. We just couldn’t convert after we broke the press. We missed some 3s, and we missed a couple layups. But we got through that initial thrust of a trap, and we were receivers, and we were smart with it. I was doing the math a couple times when it was 30.”

Brey on wearing a suit again for Coaches vs. Cancer

“1-0, brother, in a suit. (reporters laugh) And I’ll tell you one thing (about) that suit: I’m dry-cleaning this sucker, and it’s coming out (next) Saturday. (reporters laugh) I’m riding the suit. I’m riding the suit. Should I go mock? No, nope, nope, nope, I’m just kidding. I wouldn’t do that to you. But we’re gonna ride this suit for a while.

Certainly, the Coaches vs. Cancer thing was great, and you know how much we’ve been involved here with ours. And actually, we want to keep that going in August and hand that off to the next coach. That would be my goal with our charity. That would be a hell of a thing in early August to introduce him to these people in the community that’s been so helpful, and I’ll go to the bar. So I’d like to keep this going, hopefully, (with) our next coach. It’s a good thing. It’s helped Harper (Cancer Research Institute) with grants and things like that, so we don’t want to lose the momentum of this. But we’re gonna keep that suit going.”

Brey on encouraging his team to have a clean slate going into the game

“You know, I found myself saying, ’cause I’m watching the ticker last night during the NBA game, and they’ve got streaks now like Denver lost five in a row, (another team) won 11. In the NBA, it’s crazy swings: Lost seven in a row, won seven in a row. And I said, ‘Fellas, you guys all follow the NBA. I know our season’s not as long, but those swings are crazy, and you never know when they’re gonna happen, and let’s see if we can get into one of those swings back up after today.’ It was just amazing to look at the different (streaks): ‘(Lost 10 in a row, won 10 in a row’. We’ll hopefully try to use that as momentum, but we play a really good team next Saturday here.

And I’m so flustered, I had us going to Winston-Salem next week when I talked with the guys. I’m so focused, I had us going on the road, so I will be here.”

Brey on the focus for the coming week

“Rest and handle your books. Rest and handle your academics. Rest for two days, then we’ll get back into stuff Tuesday. And you know what? You always practice better after a win, man. You got a little spring in your step. I’ll give this group credit though. They (have) come in and worked even though they’ve been punched. I give them a lot of credit about coming in, focusing. And I think our seniors have kept that practice habit going. As a coach, that can be a challenge at times, so I think we’ll be ready to roll on Wednesday.”

Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire