Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Rebound Heading into ACC

Getting back in a winning groove was the gameplan for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish last week, something that was accomplished with their two victories last week. While the two opponents they vanquished won’t necessarily help them get back into the Top 25, the Irish were able to stop the bleeding as they now venture into ACC play.

Moving up in the polls means being able to handle themselves in one of the country’s most competitive conferences. The non-conference portion of Notre Dame’s season has been something of a mixed bag, which doesn’t provide a clear roadmap regarding how things will work out over the next few months.

Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review

Both of last week’s wins were starter-driven, especially the 97-87 Dartmouth victory. In that contest, the bench contributed just three points, while the Irish defense had problems defending against the onslaught of Big Green three-point attempts. Dartmouth launched 32 on the night and and connected 15 times, a level of success that helped keep them in the game.

Two key stretches were the difference for Notre Dame, both of them wrapped around intermission. In the last five minutes of the first half, the Irish outscored the Big Green 18-10, including 11 unanswered points. Notre Dame then began the second half with a 15-7 run to take a 61-46 lead, but Dartmouth got within three at 82-79 with 4:36 left before the Irish were finally able to slam the door.

Two nights later, a second half surge by Notre Dame ended any upset hopes of SE Louisiana in an 86-50 rout. Mike Brey’s squad outscored their foes by a 49-21 score after the break, including a 20-4 run to get things going, which saw the Irish methodically build up their lead over the course of the half.

One of the chief reasons why Notre Dame had little trouble in this clash was the stifling defense that saw them hold SE Louisiana to just under 30 percent shooting from the field. Like the Dartmouth win, this was primarily the work of the Irish starting unit, which scored 74 of the team’s 86 points.

Standouts of the Week

Bonzie Colson

Two more double-doubles last week now give Colson 31 in his storied Notre Dame career. His 37-point, 11 rebound performance against Dartmouth was needed to emerge with a win. That point total marked a career-high for him and was supplemented by a trio of steals and a pair of blocks. Against SE Louisiana, he had to get patched up during the course of the game, but still managed to score 16 points and grab 10 boards.

Matt Farrell

Farrell collected 39 points and eight assists during the two wins, numbers that have become fairly standard in the minds of Irish fans. Hitting 61 percent on his 23 shots from the field, he also managed to hit on 6-of-12 from long-range, with his continued leadership on the court one of the linchpin to Notre Dame’s success.

Rex Pflueger

Playing virtually the entire game against Dartmouth, Pflueger notched 13 points and swiped six rebounds off the glass. Two nights later, he was able to get a little more rest, yet managed a strong all-around game by scoring 17 points hauling down five rebounds, while dishing out three assists and collecting the same number of steals.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

The holiday week will be relatively quiet-Saturday afternoon, when the Irish host the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in a game set to tip off just after 2 p.m. Entering the month of December, Georgia Tech was flying high with a 4-1 mark, though most of the wins came against lower-level opponents.

However, once December arrived, the Yellow Jackets got a painful dose of reality with losses in five of their last six contests. The lone victory came against Florida A&M, while a pair of their defeats came against the likes of Grambling and Wofford. Their most recent game saw Georgia Tech waste an 11-point second half advantage in an 85-81 loss to Wright State.

Since Notre Dame entered ACC play, the Irish have won five of the eight games played in this series, with the home team having won all but one of the matchups. Getting off on the right note in this conference is imperative, especially with the rigorous schedule the Irish faces in the weeks ahead.

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