Eight months ago, we received word that Matt Farrell would get the start in ND’s first round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan in Brooklyn. At that moment, there was an unknown about what Farrell would be able to give the Irish, and some even questioned Brey’s sanity for starting a player who registered eight DNPs in ACC play.
Farrell proved Brey a sage, as he performed admirably (26.8 MPG, 6.5 PPG, 3.5 APG, 5 total turnovers) in ND’s run to the Elite 8. Fast forward to this year’s Legends Classic, in the same gym where ND clinched their second straight Sweet 16, and Farrell’s star has risen exponentially.
The Irish held on against Northwestern, 70-66, to win the Legends Classic in Brooklyn, one night after getting by Colorado, 89-83. Farrell, the unquestioned MVP for the Irish, averaged 19 points and 6 assists in the two victories. There’s a lot to cover, so in honor of that 19 point average, here are the 19 things to know about ND’s wins over Colorado and Northwestern.
1. Farrell’s quickness is off the charts. He took the ball to the tin at will against the Buffs, and put away Northwestern with an acrobatic finish for a three point play to give the Irish a 68-66 lead. His ability to drive the lane and finish will only open up more triples on kick outs, as well as some easy dunks for Geben and Colson. Northwestern undoubtedly was aware of Farrell’s success getting to the rim against Colorado. On the first play of the game, Farrell drove the lane, the defense converged, and he dropped a pretty bounce pass to Geben for an easy dunk. Keep attacking, Matty.
2. More Farrell goodness. 66 minutes…12 assists and 1 turnover.
3. The Bonz is going to be a force this year. Doris Burke (who is excellent, by the way) correctly acknowledged that Colson is undervalued on the national stage. The Bonz averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in Brooklyn, with double-doubles in each game. As Burke indicated, Colson can flourish on three levels now: at the rim, with the mid-range floater/jumper, and behind the 3-point line. Harangody-like numbers should be attainable.
4. Notre Dame has proved over the last 2+ years that it does not panic when faced with adversity. Northwestern used a 27-10 run in the second half to go up 64-58 with a little over six minutes to play. Most teams in ND’s position would start forcing shots, and the game would get away from them. Not the Irish. The Wildcats scored two points the rest of the way, as the Irish held them to 1-10 from the floor in the final six minutes. ND used sound man-to-man defense to get necessary stops, which is a great sign going forward.
5. While the defense down the stretch was stellar, the rebounding was an issue. Brey went small with the Bonz at the 5, and Rex Pflueger in the lineup. Expect to see this a lot. However, Northwestern had four offense rebounds in the final five minutes, including one that caused me to kick my dog’s bed across the living room. With this small lineup, Beachem and Pflueger are going to need to crash the glass. Noticeably, Farrell (who else) was there for the rebound after Northwestern’s final miss to clinch the game. For the night, the Irish were outrebounded by 10 (37-27). Something to watch.
6. That inbound pass from Taphorn was brutal, but was deserved after the guy simply could not miss the entire second half.
7. The Irish have to defend the 3-point line better than they did on Tuesday night. Northwestern hit 11 of 19 from deep. Pretty impressive that the Irish were able to pull out the W, despite the Wildcats’ hot shooting.
8. Beach is going to be a stud this year, but he struggled a bit in Brooklyn. 8-26 (30.8%) from the floor and 3-11 (27.3%) on threes in both games, and only hit 4-7 FT on Tuesday night. After seven rebounds on Monday, Beach only corralled two against Northwestern. Not concerned in the least bit.
9. Oh yeah, Beach did this against Colorado…
10. Minutes may be hard to come by for Matt Ryan this year. He played a total of 16 minutes in Brooklyn, hitting a triple in each game. Pflueger is such a good defender, and with Brey relying on 30+ minutes from four of his starters, Ryan may only be asked to shoot the rock in his limited minutes.
11. T.J. Gibbs looked a little tentative in his first action against quality competition. He also received limited playing time: 19 minutes in two games. I still think he is going to play a big role on this team, as is he just too talented. Brey admitted after the game that he needs to get T.J. some more minutes.
12. I was surprised to see Austin Torres get 18 minutes on Monday against Colorado. Yeah, the Bonz was in foul trouble, but no minutes for either Burns or Mooney? Offensively, Torres struggled mightily against the Buffs, missing three layups and both of his FT attempts. Give him credit though, as he rebounded with five points in eight minutes against Northwestern. I’d still like to see Burns and/or Mooney get a few minutes, but Brey obviously must not trust them defensively yet.
13. Steve Vasturia is just steady, man. 17 against Colorado, and 18 more on Tuesday against the Cats. He also did his best Hot Sauce impression sending Josh Fortune to the floor on this drive Monday night…
14. Interesting tale of two halves in each game. In the first half, ND shot 54.5% against Colorado and 50.0% against Northwestern. Second half…30.3% and 34.5%. The Irish were 12-22 (54.5%) from deep in both first halves, while only 2-13 (15.4%) in the second.
15. Against Colorado, those not named Austin Torres were 27-27 from the FT line. (Torres was 0-2). Getting to the line should be a priority for the Irish, as this can be a tremendous weapon throughout the season. It certainly doesn’t hurt when your main post player shoots it at a 90% clip.
16. Northwestern has never made the NCAA Tournament. That changes this year. Although McIntosh had a rough, rough night, he is a very solid guard. With the talent around him, and the ability to hit the triple, the Wildcats will go dancing if they avoid the injury bug.
17. As I write this, #3 IU just lost to Fort Wayne. ND plays Fort Wayne on December 6. That one should be a priority for Irish fans and ND students. Go. To. The. Game.
18. The few of you that read this blog know that I had a little bit of game at the Rock and Rolfs during my four years at ND. It brought a tear to my eye seeing the Bonz go twice to the turnaround fadeaway jumper towards the baseline, which was my go-to move. Now if he uses the glass on that turnaround, that would be a beautiful thing.
19. The Irish have four home games before traveling to Philly on Dec. 10 for a Saturday matinee against #2 Villanova. With three buy games (Chicago State, NC A&T, Fort Wayne) and Iowa on the schedule, the Irish have a legitimate chance to be 9-0 for the first time in Brey’s 17-year career at ND.
Hey Lunardi, are the Irish still a 12 seed? #BasketballSchool