Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Prepare for Tough Week of ACC Games

Ending 2017 on a positive note probably took a little more time than Mike Brey and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were expecting, yet they accomplished their goal in their lone contest last week. That 68-59 win over Georgia Tech also allowed the Irish to start off ACC play right, with the rigors of this always-competitive conference on tap over the next few months.

Brey achieved a milestone as a result of the win, etching his name alongside the legendary Digger Phelps for victories as a Notre Dame head coach. Phelps and Brey have each won 393 during their respective tenures, with Phelps’ run spanning from 1971-91 and Brey currently in his 18th campaign with the Irish.

Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review

Entering the December 30 home clash against the Yellow Jackets as double-digit favorites, the Irish got an immediate dose of reality by finding themselves down 28-23 at the half. Georgia Tech led by as many as seven during the opening 20 minutes, helped by a pair of cold spells that saw Notre Dame go over four minutes at the midway point without a field goal. They closed the final five minutes with just a buzzer-beating layup to account for their field goal production during that span.

No doubt having received an earful during intermission from Brey, the Irish woke up and scored the first eight points of the second half. With just over 15 minutes left in the game, the Yellow Jackets took their final lead of the game 32-31. However, a Bonzie Colson jumper just 25 seconds later gave the Irish the lead for good, with that advantage reaching as high as 13 points.

Both teams struggled with their shooting, managing just 38 percent each from the field. Not surprisingly, their three-point touch was even worse, with Notre Dame also able to take advantage of a miserable afternoon at the line by Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets managed to shoot just 7-of-18 from the charity stripe, with those 11 misses notable because of the final nine-point margin.

Standouts of the Week

Bonzie Colson

Once again heading the list is the senior who helped deliver another standout performance with a 22-point, 17-rebound effort. Colson’s work on the glass matched his career-high in that category, and while he struggled from the field like many of his teammates, he still delivered in other areas. That included swatting away a trio of Georgia Tech shots and also picking up a pair of steals along the way.

Rex Pflueger

Joining each member of the starting unit when it came to scoring in double figures, Pflueger ended his busy afternoon with 11 points, with two of his three field goals coming from long-range. Like Colson, he managed to make an impact elsewhere by hauling down seven errant shots by the Yellow Jackets and also handing out a game-high six assists.

Matt Farrell

Both Farrell and T.J. Gibbs each ended their time against Georgia Tech with 10 points, with Farrell spending all 40 minutes on the court. All three of his field goals came on three-pointers, though he also struggled from the field by missing nine other attempts during the contest. Still, he did manage to supplement the rebounding effort with five boards and also handed out four assists.

Martinas Geben

Geben finished with 12 points and avoided the shooting woes of his teammates by hitting on 5-of-8 in the field goal department. Of course, he had the benefit of three of those baskets coming in the form of dunks over the final nine minutes of action. For good measure, he also delivered five rebounds.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

Two ACC games will get 2018 going for the Irish, the first coming on Wednesday night at home against North Carolina State. Notre Dame has won three of the four games since the two schools became conference rivals. The last time the Wolfpack came to South Bend was two years ago, which was when the Irish picked up an 89-75 win.

On Saturday, Notre Dame hits the road by traveling to the Carrier Dome to face Jim Boeheim’s Orangemen. Having dropped their last five meetings here, the Irish are hoping to pick up their first win in the imposing facility since 2007, a 103-91 win. Over the past two decades, Notre Dame has been on the wrong end of the final score here 11 times in their 13 tries.

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  1. Boeheim lost His heir apparent to Washington ( Hopkins) I think We have a good chance in this one. BT W, Hopkins attended same high school as Rex Pfleuger.

  2. The Irish have a persistent problem with slow starts in the first half. It’s something they have not seemed to have an answer too and at this point, I’m not sure they can. If they can’t find a way to overcome these slow starts, that could be what causes them an early exit in the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Against a team like GT, you can have a slow start but find a way to win it with a strong 2nd half. Against teams like Duke, a slow start can doom them, and there are a number of teams in the ACC that can expose a weakness like that and make for a less then stellar year.

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