The Irish have some serious stones. No, I’m not talking about the sweet whiskey stones that were in my bourbon last night.
We’ve learned over the past three years that the Irish just don’t quit. The 2016 Sweet 16 win over Wisconsin directly comes to mind. Even in last year’s NCAA Tournament loss to West Virginia they started off incredibly slow, battled, but just couldn’t get over the hump. Last night…level passed.
Notre Dame took down #6 Wichita State, 67-66, largely thanks to an effective zone defense and timely plays by all five starters. Marty knocked down two free throws with 1.9 seconds left to give the Irish the lead, and Rex sealed it with a steal as the horn sounded. What a win.
For those that passed out when the Irish were down 14 at the half, here’s a recap of a wild Maui Invitational Championship game (with 16 nuggets in honor of the comeback from down 37-21 late in the first half).
1. Switching to the zone absolutely was the key to the W. It was a typical ND zone…not incredibly active and designed to give Wichita a different look. The Shockers did not handle it well at all.
Brey went to zone for good at the 15:30 mark, down 46-37. In the next four possessions, Wichita had two turnovers, and their only score came on the play where T.J. got dinged driving to the bucket.
After a Zach Brown three to make it 60-52 with just under eight minutes to play, Wichita proceeded to only get three Landry Shamet (he’s good) runners the rest of the way.
2. The D was great…but the offensive efficiency in the second half was off the charts. The Irish had 30 second-half possessions and came away with points on 21 of them, and 8 of the first 9 to start the half and get back in the game.
That’s against a superb Shocker defense that had them completely puzzled in the first half.
3. The last 90 seconds were epic. After a Shamet runner extended the lead to 64-61 with 1:25 to play, Bonz hit a driving jumper. Shamet answered with what looked to be a dagger.
With 19 seconds to go, Bonz airballed a wide open three. Shocking, no pun intended. Then, Matt Farrell stole the inbounds pass, quickly dished it to Bonz for a bucket to make it 66-65. Amazing play by Farrell (go to 1:38 of the below video).
Austin Reeves, with half a shirt under his jersey, missed the front end of a 1-and-1. Farrell’s subsequent driving layup was blocked, and Rashard Kelly grabbed the board. Enter Rex, who as offensively-challenged as he is, just makes big plays down the stretch. Rex tied up Kelly, resulting in Irish ball on the possession arrow, with 3.3 seconds left.
Brey drew up the same inbounds play as he did the night before that resulted in a Mooney dunk against LSU. The Shockers focused on the screen action with Colson and Farrell, leaving a wide open Geben cutting to the basket. Morris hacked Geben as he was going for the dunk.
As Morris fouled out, thoughts of Ollie from Hoosiers entered my mind, and hopefully our priest said a good prayer (“Make it a good one, Strap.”)
Just like Ollie’s second free throw (except the whole underhand part), the first Geben free throw hit the back iron, bounced high in the air, hung on the front rim and rolled back in. Free throw #2…drained.
After a timeout, having only 1.9 seconds left, Wichita got the ball to Shamet at half court. There was Rex again, who ripped Shamet to clinch the Maui Invitational.
4. Lost in all the chaos: Bonz went for 25 and 11. He hit a huge triple to get the Irish within one possession, at 62-59, for the first time since the opening minutes. His ability to finish around the rim over guys taller than him is uncanny.
One slight concern with Bonz is his free throw shooting (6-10 on the night). I have a feeling this will get corrected, and he will be back hovering around 80% in no time.
5. Mike Brey is an amazing human.
6. Thankfully, the Irish have a week off before travelling to East Lansing, because Brey rode his starters in the second half last night. The starters played the final 9:09, with Farrell and Bonz playing all 20 minutes. After 10 minutes of PT in the first half, Harvey only played three minutes in the second. Mooney played 9 seconds, picking up a foul after allowing Morris to get prime post position. No Burns, and Torres played just over a minute for a stretch.
7. Of course the free throws were huge, but Marty was terrific all game. 12 points, 5 rebounds in 25 minutes. And I’m not talking about the dunks. Marty showed a toughness tonight against the Wichita bigs that has been absent more often than not. Not to mention, a couple sweet dishes to Bonz and Farrell for easy layups.
Well done, Marty.
8. Farrell was named MVP of the Maui Invitational. Bilas thinks he could be wearing an NBA jersey next year. Bilas is smart.
9. I’ve come to the realization that expecting offense from Rex is dumb, and that we need to appreciate what he gives on the defensive end of the floor and his hustle. They likely aren’t going to need his offense.
With that said, he takes some dumb shots and some of his pull ups don’t even have a chance. The three that he took with the Irish down 10 midway through the second half was contested, and not in the flow of the offense. If you’re open, chuck it. If not, maybe think about getting it to one of the guys who know how to put it in the bucket.
10. A strange trend continues with T.J. Gibbs:
DePaul – 21 points
Mount – 9 points
Chicago St – 23 points
Chaminade – 7 points
LSU – 26 points
Wichita State – 7 points
That means 20+ is coming next Thursday at the Breslin Center, right?
11. The Irish were not good in the first half, scoring 12 points in the first 15 minutes. Getting to 23 at halftime was actually an accomplishment.
12. The Irish almost got beat by Zach Brown and Connor Frankamp. In the first half, Frankamp absolutely could not miss and scored 12 points. Then, he returned to the Connor Frankamp we all thought he was, going scoreless in the second half. However, Brown hit a few big triples in the second half when the Irish were trying to mount a run. His 14 points were his most in a game since last December.
13. Shaquille Morris was in foul trouble the entire game and could not get into a rhythm. Marty did a pretty nice job neutralizing him while he was actually in the game. The Wichita bigs are pretty darn good. And when they get McDuffie back…watch out.
14. Speaking of Morris, Gregg Marshall took him out after he scored on consecutive possessions to push the lead back to 52-40. For some reason, right after a TV timeout, Marshall took Morris out. The Irish went on a 10-3 run with Morris out to get back in it. Very questionable decision by Marshall.
15. Brey is superstitious. Guarantee you one of those t-shirts is underneath his button-down next Thursday night at Michigan State.
16. That was a hell of a basketball game between two Final Four contenders. We’ll see another one of those contenders in a week. Until then, Happy Thanksgiving.