Even after suffering their first defeat of the year, the Notre Dame men’s basketball team managed to gain further credibility with both the AP voters and those that make up the Coaches Poll. After reaching the Top 25 for the first time last week at No. 22 and No. 23, respectively, both polls put the Irish at No. 21 on Monday.
Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review
A tough 74-68 loss on December 10 to the top-ranked Villanova Wildcats did the trick. In their only other game on the week, Notre Dame stopped Fort Wayne on December 6, avoiding an upset that had earlier befallen the Indiana Hoosiers.
The loss on Saturday came despite Villanova not gaining their first lead until only nine minutes remained. Until that point, the Irish had held the upper hand and appeared to be poised for a huge upset, despite the Wildcat-friendly crowd.
Had Notre Dame provided an answer for Villanova’s Jason Hart, a victory would have been assured. Unfortunately, Hart ended up with 37 on the afternoon, the lone Wildcat to reach double figures. Hart only missed four of his 14 field goal attempts, grabbed 11 rebounds and was able to get to the foul line 14 times, connecting on every shot.
The Fort Wayne contest got much closer than Mike Brey would have preferred, with the Irish watching their second half advantage of 27 points dwindle to just nine with three minutes left. The victory did give Notre Dame their best start since the 1973-74 season, when they began the season with 11 consecutive wins
Notre Dame Basketball Standouts of the Week
Even though he didn’t again pick up conference Player of the Week accolades, the Irish still needed his steady production. Against Fort Wayne, he provided his sixth straight double-double with 17 points and 14 boards, while against the more formidable Wildcats, he managed 11 points and eight rebounds.
Farrell collected 30 points and 12 assists in his two performances, including 18 points in the Villanova game. In that contest, he added six assists to match his Fort Wayne effort and managed to connect at 62 percent from the field. However, he failed to get to the foul line for the first time since the Irish pounding of Bryant to start the season, a place where he hasn’t missed in 24 tries this year.
Offering up the most productive point performances of the week, Vasturia tossed in 39 points in the two clashes, including a game-high 21 against Fort Wayne. Scoring production like that is something that Brey is hoping for in the weeks and months ahead.
The Lowdown on Letdowns
In each of last week’s games, the Notre Dame killer instinct ebbed during the second half. The issue was manageable against Fort Wayne, due to a large lead, but the inability to stop Villanova when it counted proved to be fatal. In the latter case, a Wildcat surge may have been inevitable, yet navigating through the ACC and any postseason run requires fixing the issue quickly.
Notre Dame’s Week Ahead
Just one game is on the schedule this week and that comes on Saturday when the Irish take on the 15th-ranked Purdue Boilermakers as part of the Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The 2 p.m. matchup figures to be another stiff test as Notre Dame winds toward ACC action. However, the Irish confidence should be high, considering the stiff challenge they provided to Villanova.