Like a speed horse jumping out to an early lead in the Kentucky Derby, the Irish have sprinted out of the gate with three big ACC wins. They find themselves tied with Florida State atop the conference, before three difficult road tests against Miami, Virginia Tech, and the aforementioned Seminoles, in the next 10 days.
Let’s talk about that gem of a basketball game yesterday. As predicted, the Irish started slow and had to scrap out a victory late. This tweet explains how good this game was.
In honor of V.J. Beachem’s 22 points, here are the 22 takeaways from a big Irish victory.
1. Let’s start with Beach. Man, was that nice to see. Clemson was helping on drives and on Bonz on the post, which opened up Beach for some prime triples. And he knocked them down. He also hit a three in transition, and even hit a standstill triple from the corner by simply rising up over a defender.
2. Beach kept the Irish in the game in the 1st half, as Farrell, Stove and Bonz struggled. Brey said after the game that without Beach, the Irish may have been down 25. He might not be far off. As I’ve said, this team needs all four guys to click to make a deep run in March.
3. During the under 8 timeout, tied at 55, I looked at the stats on the scoreboard and noticed that Beach had 20, while Farrell, Stove and Bonz had a combined 24. Those three took over down the stretch, as they scored 18 of the final 20 Irish points.
4. There is no question that Farrell is simply built for end of games. He wants the ball. In the last three minutes, he hit two triples and made a fantastic cross-court inbounds pass to Stove that led to another triple. The final dagger three was just filthy.
5. What does Bill Raftery have to say about that triple…
6. While Farrell was excellent in the second half (12 points, 0 turnovers), he was awful in the first (3 points, 4 turnovers). Brey said that he challenged him at halftime, and boy did he deliver.
7. One thing to watch with Farrell is the amount of minutes he is playing. In the post-game presser, Brey discussed that Farrell was fatigued coming into this game, and has not been worked too hard in recent practices. After playing 80 of 85 minutes in the first two Ws, Brey sat him for seven minutes yesterday.
8. Double-double #10 for Bonz. A workmanlike 13 points and 12 rebounds in 34 minutes.
9. Bonz is always going to have some shots swatted because he is routinely playing against players 4-6 inches taller than him. Elijah Thomas sent a couple back with force, knocking Bonz to the floor once. Thomas, a freshman, is a pretty nice player for Clemson.
10. At the under 8 in the 1st half, the Irish trailed 21-20. At that point, they were 6-14 from deep, and 0-3 from inside the arc. ND finished 15-32 on threes, an impressive 47%. They were 14-39 (35.9%) in the first two ACC games.
11. Gabe DeVoe was on fire for Clemson in the first half, going 4-6 from deep. The Irish locked him down in the second half, as he only took one shot (which he missed on Clemson’s second to last possession immediately before Farrell’s clincher) and was held to two free throws. Nice adjustment by Brey and the staff, as Pflueger stuck on DeVoe after the intermission.
12. Staying on topic, Brey indicated after the game that Matt Ryan was responsible for losing DeVoe on a couple of the triples. This probably explains why he is getting three minutes of playing time. Brey said that he wanted to get Ryan more minutes, and inferred that if he steps it up defensively, he may see more time.
13. The Irish got to the line only six times (4-6) on Saturday, mostly due to chucking it 32 times from deep. Getting to the line on the road will be essential to stealing one or two in this next stretch.
14. Farrell is now 10-14 from the line after starting 27-27. That’s just called coming back to Earth.
15. Notre Dame still leads the country in FT shooting (84%), but is now tied for second in fewest turnovers per game (9.4). They still barely lead UCLA in assist/turnover ratio. Irish turned it over 10 times on Saturday.
16. If you need a big shot, Stove will drill it.
17. More on that Stove three. Brey took a timeout after a Farrell layup was blocked out of bounds with three seconds remaining on the shot clock. Brey said that wasn’t the play they drew up, but was just incredible basketball IQ by Farrell to see that DeVoe was sleeping under the basket.
18. Clemson started the game on a 10-0 run, which likely was my fault, as we didn’t get to our seats on time due to unfinished cocktails
19. I thought the crowd was excellent yesterday. I believe that was the first sellout of the season, and it was loud down the stretch.
20. Clemson scored on eight consecutive possessions before DeVoe’s missed three at 72-70. Not sure how Brownell doesn’t get the ball to Blossomgame in that situation, but I’m guessing DeVoe went off-script. I went back and watched the possession, and Stove was stuck to Blossomgame like Buddy on the Jasper player in Hoosiers. I don’t think Brownell got the play he wanted, as DeVoe chucked up a hurried shot a few seconds after the ball was inbounded to Blossomgame.
21. Sidy Djitte may be the best name in college basketball.
22. The question is now, do the Irish have what it takes to maintain their success, or do they allow themselves to get passed by the thoroughbreds of the ACC? We’ll probably get a pretty good indicator in the next two weeks.