Maui sure seems like a long time ago.
Since stealing the Maui Invitational title three weeks back, the Irish look nothing like that team. Sparty handed them their first loss in East Lansing. That was expected. The Irish were still considered at Top 10 team, despite a weird Sunday afternoon against St. Francis Brooklyn that saw Brey and Bonz watching the end of the game on Bonz’s phone in the locker room.
Then Taylor Persons and Ball State happened. The inexplicable loss to the Cardinals, to use a Brey-ism, made the Irish poor again. They responded positively by easily handling Delaware and seemingly rediscovering the offensive spark.
Then the Crossroads Classic happened. Again. For the third straight year, Notre Dame blew a double-digit lead in the event…this time to a 5-5 Indiana squad that started its year by losing to Indiana State…at home…by 24.
Winter golf (82, despite a horrid short game) prevented me from catching this one live, and I decided to go off the grid to prevent seeing a score. A misguided review of a text hours later gave me the outcome, and since the Bears had already produced a stinker, I figured I’d save this one for Sunday morning.
It couldn’t be that bad, I thought. Well, Tom Noie’s warning was absolutely accurate. They stunk. This isn’t going to be one of those “give credit to Indiana” recaps, because the Irish simply blew this one.
It’s time for Brey’s boys to start playing like men, or this could turn into 2008-09 all over again.
Mistakes Down the Stretch
We’ll get to OT, but this game should never have reached an extra frame. Let’s go ahead and list just what happened in the last minute of regulation.
1. With the Irish up 65-63 and less than a minute to go, Bonz doesn’t get a touch. The shot Notre Dame gets, you ask? A pull-up 15 foot jumper. So it was Farrell, right?
Nope. Rex Pflueger, who couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn all afternoon, takes it upon himself to chuck up a shot that Archie Miller couldn’t have dreamed of forcing in that situation. After a pick and roll up top between Farrell and Bonz, Farrell threw a cross court pass over to Rex with 10 on the shot clock.
Bonz is WIDE OPEN in the post as Juwan Morgan attempts to recover. Rex proceeds to not drive, but dribble parallel to the basket and shoot a D.J. Harvey shot. It misses…badly.
2. So Indiana gets the rebound and calls timeout. Brey subs in Torres for Mooney. To this point, Torres had played a little over a minute in the first half, which resulted in two Morgan buckets and one of Josh McRoberts’ seven offensive rebounds (we’ll get to that).
At this point, other than a couple Collin Hartman triples, two guys are capable of scoring for IU: Morgan and Robert Johnson. Brey puts Rex on Johnson (who already had 20 points) and Torres on Morgan. The Hoosiers run the absolute simplest play I have ever seen, with Morgan getting the ball at the top of the key. With no resistance whatsoever, Morgan just waltzes down the right side of the paint and scores with ease over Torres.
3. So it’s tied and the Irish have 13 seconds and a timeout left. Brey’s going to play offense/defense, get Mooney (who has hit 2-3 from deep) or Geben (for pick and roll purposes) back in the game, right? Nope. He leaves Torres in.
4. Now that Brey’s not calling a timeout, it’s in Farrell’s hands to make the correct decision.
Does he drive the lane and try to hit a tough shot against the trees, like in the Northwestern game last year? Nope.
Does he come off a pick and roll and pull up for a three? Nope.
Does he try to force feed the All-American? Nope.
First, he takes his sweet time dribbling the ball up the court and crosses half-court with 8 seconds to play. No urgency, whatsoever. This leads to a double screen at the top of the key with Torres, first, then Bonz.
At this point, Farrell has five choices. 1) Shoot a running three. 2) Keep driving the lane and try to get to the bucket. 3) Swing it back over to Bonz for a three or a pull-up 18 footer. 4) Kick it to Gibbs in the corner for a contested three. 5) Pass it to a cutting Torres in the lane who would have to hit a contested shot over Hartman. Notice the time. With 3.7 seconds, there’s absolutely no chance at a tip-in.
Farrell chooses option 5…and Torres gets fouled.
5. With .8 seconds left, Torres just has to hit one free throw to win the game. Just one. Coming into the game, he was 17-40 (42.5%) for his career.
We’ve documented his struggles over the years with free throws, just because of the ugly hitch in his stroke. Well, it looks like he got rid of the hitch, but the result was the same. Torres misses both, and onto overtime.
Now for the rant on each point.
1. If Rex gets the ball to Bonz there, the Irish score and they win. It’s as simple as that. There is no way in hell that Brey drew up that play for Rex. He went rogue at the worst possible time. Get the ball to 35. More on Rex later.
2. After the game, Brey said that he likes Torres for defense in game situations. Great, Coach, but why had he not played a single minute in the previous 33 minutes? I can forgive the decision, but the effort by Torres was just awful. He allows Morgan to just go wherever he wants to go, resulting in a pretty easy bucket.
3. This decision by Brey is not forgivable. We’ve covered this in the past, but when you need a bucket, you cannot have both Rex and Torres in the game at the same time. Use the timeout. Set up a play. The last time Brey set up a play it resulted in a great inbounds play to Marty, who proceeded to get fouled and knock down two free throws to win it. If Marty gets fouled in that situation, they win the game.
4. I’m just going to let this video explain my thoughts on Farrell deciding to pass it to Torres.
5. Torres seems like a great guy…no question about it. But, if you can’t get a stop as the defensive specialist or hit one of two free throws after being in a big-time college basketball program for 4+ years, you can’t play anymore. You just can’t.
I miss Stove
It wasn’t apparent until this loss how much the Irish miss Steve Vasturia. They hoped that Rex would turn into the steady all-around-player that Stove was for four years, but early returns are not good.
Sure, Stove struggled at times with his shot, but he hit multiple big ones in his career. When his shot was off, he would get to the rim and was able to finish. Most importantly, Stove was excellent at making the correct pass to keep the offense properly flowing.
Yesterday, Rex played as poor of a game as I can remember. After a nice move for a reverse layup to get the Irish on the board, Rex missed his last seven shots (most of which were well off). Other than the mistake outlined above on the second to last possession of regulation, Rex didn’t look comfortable on offense or defense.
When Rex went to the bench for his first rest of the second half, the Irish scored five quick points. As Brey routinely does right before the under 12, he gets either Farrell or Gibbs a breather and brings Rex back in. What resulted was a 90 second stretch that shows some of the struggles Rex has gone through early on this season.
First, he aimlessly drove the ball into the paint and traveled in the process. On defense, he’s late around a screen and Johnson hits a three. Then, Gibbs feeds him under the basket on an inbounds play, and Rex’s shot doesn’t even draw iron. On the way back down the court, he fouls McRoberts 30 feet from the basket. Later in the second half, he missed a pretty wide-open layup.
Speaking of McRoberts, he is listed at 6’6, 205 pounds. Rex Pflueger: 6’6, 206 pounds. One guy had seven offense rebounds yesterday in 31 minutes (McRoberts) and the other had two total boards in 37 minutes (Rex). In fact, since Rex pulled down 19 rebounds in the first two games of the season, he has 23 in the last nine games.
Right now, Brey is living and dying with Rex instead of giving more minutes to Harvey or Djogo (who looked pretty solid in seven minutes). A loss like Saturday may give Brey a little something to think about regarding minutes going forward.
Here’s hoping Rex can turn it around…and fast.
Five Quick Random Thoughts
1. Bonz was fantastic in OT, but he has to get that rebound at the end. That whole play was just a disaster. After McRoberts came down with it, Mooney inexplicably left Morgan wide open underneath the basket. Just a huge, untimely breakdown.
2. ND closed out each half terribly. They scored 3 points in the final 5:13 of the first half, and 4 points in the final 4:24 of regulation. Not acceptable.
3. Harvey played nine pretty solid minutes in the first half, including a beauty of a pull-up, but got minimal run in the second. #UnleashDJ
4. Djogo and Mooney were pretty solid yesterday. Let’s see what kind of minutes they get against Dartmouth and Multidirectional Louisiana.
5. Rex/Mooney/Torres/Harvey – 65 minutes…4 rebounds. Minutes may be available for anyone who shows that they want to get a rebound.