After three exhibition tuneups that simply allowed Irish players to get comfortable under game conditions again, Notre Dame men’s basketball officially began their season with a pair of victories. As always, attempting to gauge exactly where the team is so early in the campaign is a foolish exercise, though Mike Brey’s squad used the first half of each contest to lay the groundwork for greater success after the break.
Coming off a season which saw them reach the Round of 32, the Irish need to replace the presence of V.J. Beacham and Steve Vasturia. That duo accounted for just under 28 points per game and eight rebounds, so newcomers to the starting rotation like Martinas Geben and T.J. Gibbs will have to step up their game in order for Notre Dame to have any thoughts of surpassing last year’s effort.
Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review
Depending on what poll was checked, the Irish began the year somewhere in the lower portions of the Top 15. Traveling to face the DePaul Blue Devils on Saturday, Notre Dame managed to hold a four-point halftime lead at 29-25, with DePaul connecting on their outside shot at the meager rate of 26 percent during those first 20 minutes.
After the break, the Irish used their prowess from long range to seal the victory by hitting on 9-of-12 in the area of three-pointers. A trio of threes in the span of just over a minute gave Notre Dame a 60-47 advantage with 7:47 left and effectively served as the true kill shots in the 72-58 win.
Two nights later, the home opener against Mount St. Mary’s pretty much went as expected in an 88-62 rout, with Rex Pflueger one of two players to collect a double-double on the evening. Leading 42-30 at the half, the Irish used their domination in the paint to eliminate any thoughts of a comeback. Notre Dame outscored their opponents 26-8 in this category, one reason they were able to end that half with 62 percent field goal shooting.
Standouts of the Week
Seeing Bonzie Colson’s name in this section has become commonplace and the 2017-18 season isn’t likely to change that situation. The senior managed to collect double-doubles in each of the two games, beginning with with 18 points and 13 rebounds against DePaul, adding five assists along the way. Against Mount St. Mary’s, he tossed in 27 points and hauled down 11 boards. Like Pflueger, Colson took advantage of the disparity in the paint, hitting on 11-of-15 from the field.
Handling things from the point, Matt Farrell got off to a strong start with a 15-point effort against DePaul. All of his points came from downtown and helped fuel the second half surge that got the season started off on the right note. Facing Mt. St. Mary’s, Farrell managed to dish out five assists and score 23 points, though only two of his baskets on the night were from beyond the three-point line.
The sophomore gave a pretty good indication that his offseason weight loss was a wise decision with a 21-point performance in the season opener at DePaul. He moved quickly and managed to put in 38 minutes on the court. Facing Mt. St. Mary’s, TJ Gibbs only managed to tally nine points, yet the blowout component of the contest played a partial role in those reduced numbers.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
A relatively quiet week lies ahead with a home game on Thursday against Chicago State State on tap. Like the Mt. St. Mary’s clash, this contest shouldn’t serve as much of a challenge, though it can help benefit the bench players who figure to end up seeing plenty of time. That expected rest for the starters will come in handy with three games in three days in next week’s Chaminade Tournament in Hawaii getting underway on Sunday.
Notre Dame doesn’t have to concern itself with ACC play until December 30, when they host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Outside of a Hawaii matchup against either Michigan or LSU, the biggest challenge that the Irish will face before then will be the November 30 trip to face Tom Izzo’s Michigan State Spartans. Amazingly, that game will mark the first visit to East Lansing for a Notre Dame squad since the 1973-74 campaign.