Most trips to Hawaii tend to result in visitors returning home with smiles on their faces. That’s definitely the case with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s men’s basketball team, which swept their three games at the Maui Invitational. The trio of victories doubled the number of wins for head coach Mike Brey’s team on the young season and kept them undefeated at 6-0. It also moved them into the AP Top 5 in the latest rankings released on Monday.
No doubt Brey and most fans were relieved that two of the victories came easy, allowing the team’s reserves a chance to see some court action. The lone nail-biter was also a valuable aspect of the trip, since it gives the key players the opportunity to get a taste of the high-pressure situations that will follow in the months ahead.
Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review
Facing the host Chaminade Silverswords last Monday night brought with it some concern that the Irish might be looking ahead to bigger challenges over the next two days. While three-point shooting kept Chaminade close early on, Notre Dame was able to get their lead into double figures with five minutes left in the first half and held a 38-29 advantage at halftime. The Irish depth then managed to wear out the undermanned Silverswords, leading to an 83-56 victory.
One night later, the opponent was the LSU Tigers, with the decision even more convincing in a 92-53 rout. The main aspects of how Notre Dame was able to coast in this game stem from the team’s stifling defense and their 15 three-pointers. The Irish were also able to exploit the unfortunate ankle injury suffered by Tiger guard Brandon Sampson, who left the game in the first minute of play. Soon after that occurred, Notre Dame used a 15-2 run to make it an easy night and earn a spot in the tournament final.
Facing sixth-ranked Wichita State, a pair of free throws in the closing seconds by Martinas Geben capped a riveting 67-66 comeback from a 16-point deficit. The Irish trailed 37-23 at the half and made the decision to focus more on their inside game on offense. For the defensive side of the ledger, a zone defense was implemented and managed to methodically whittle the margin down. Geben’s game-winning free throw marked only the second lead of the entire game for Notre Dame.
Standouts of the Week
Mr. Consistency managed to collect a pair of double-doubles in the three victories. Against Chaminade, he tossed in 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, then managed to add five steals to a 12-point, 11-rebound effort against LSU. A 25-point, 11-rebound performance against Wichita State also saw the senior swat away a pair of shots by the Shockers.
Farrell led the rout of Chaminade with 27 points and added four assists, then connected on four 3-pointers as part of a 17-point, seven-assist contribution against LSU. Making his presence felt on defense against Wichita State, he added three steals to his 15 points and four assists.
Sandwiching a pair of relatively quiet performances around a 26-point performance against LSU, Gibbs is finding his way in the Irish backcourt. In that LSU contest, he knocked six three-pointers and added four assists. Meanwhile, the other two efforts saw him score seven points in each, though in the Chaminade game, his all-around game was on target with four boards, three assists and three steals.
Making his first appearance in this section, Geben delivered more than just those two clutch free throws to defeat Wichita State. In that game, he finished with 12 points and five rebounds and blocked a pair of shot attempts. Less fanfare came in his four-point, seven-rebound game against Chaminade, though he did reach double figures in scoring against LSU with 10 points and added four more rebounds.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Just one game for Notre Dame this week, but like the Wichita State contest, it serves as a huge litmus test. That’s because it comes on the home floor of the Michigan State Spartans, who are currently ranked third in the country. That game will tip off Thursday just after 7 p.m. (ET) and be broadcast by ESPN.
The 5-1 Spartans are coming off a convincing 63-45 win over North Carolina, with their only loss coming against another ACC foe, the top-ranked Duke Blue Devils, in an 88-81 defeat. Tom Izzo’s squad would like nothing better than toppling the undefeated Irish.