Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Crack Top 5 After Maui Win

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

Bonzie Colson

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.

Matt Farrell

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.

T.J. Gibbs

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.

Martinas Geben

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.

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  1. PP, T-Rex was on back of His jersey in high school. During Joes off season He would run all around the gym with huge megaphone exciting the fans.

  2. Wow!!!! Number 5 in the country is something else. I had a sneaky suspicion that they would move up the rankings this week. However, I did not expect them to rise this high!!!!! This is awesome!!!! I will say one guy that was left out of the discussion was Rex. He does not get the stats but he does all the lunchpail work. The jump ball and the steal on the last play were just as critical to the comeback win as Geben’s free throws and Farrell’s steal. He was a one man wREXing Crew ;). I am getting so excited for the Michigan State game. I don’t know if I can bare waiting two more days. Go Irish!!!

  3. #0 Rex Pfleuger at the center of the winning banner. What a coincidence, He and Joe Schmidt ( preferred walk-on) both from same high school. Different sports, but, one thing in common, WINNERS!

    1. Great point! Old T-Rex (as in Terrific Rex) is a difference maker!! I did not know that Joe and Rex went to the same high school. I would like to know what they are feeding them at that school but it is working!!! This kid DJ is going to be something else in the next few years. I smell a SPECIAL SEASON upon us!!! Go Irish!!!!

  4. Huge game against MSU this week. While a loss won’t be the end of the world, a win could be a huge boost and show to the world this ND team is for real. Like last year, any player on this Irish team can score at any time. They have multiple guys that can contribute. Like the team that featured Connaughton and Grant, they have 2 leaders that can contribute big time in Colson and Farrell. You can’t overstate how huge it was that Colson came back for one more year. But they have even more, Gibbs has shown some good stretches and Pfleuger has shown flashes as has Geben. They still have a high powered offense, but better then that the team is actually rebounding better and playing much better defense. Those were things that have caused the Irish fits in the past.

    This feels like a team that can go far. Right now I feel like this Irish team can beat anybody. That doesn’t mean they’ll beat everybody, but they won’t be intimidated by anybody.

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