Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Wins May Salvage Season

Prior to at least temporarily righting the course of their season last week, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were in the midst of a seven-game losing streak. The two wins they picked up now give them a 15-10 overall mark and a 5-7 record within the ACC, though making further headway will continue to be a challenge over the next three weeks.

The win over the Boston College Eagles last Tuesday certainly lit up the scoreboard, though trying to contain the Eagles’ Jerome Robinson was nearly impossible. Robinson scored 46, but the Irish came away with a 96-85 win. The 15-point victory over Florida State had a unique off-court twist attached to it, considering that the 1978 Final Four team was being honored in ceremonies. That’s because the Seminoles’ athletic director, Stan Wilcox, was a part of that memorable squad.

Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review

Robinson’s onslaught was the most points by an opposing player at Purcell Pavillion in 40 years, with success on the offensive side for the Irish helping to blunt that impact. Notre Dame hit at 53 percent from the field, but was also aided by solid ball control that saw them only commit five turnovers.

With roughly more than five minutes gone in the second half, the Irish were seemingly in control, holding a 60-42 advantage. That huge lead quickly fell apart over the next seven minutes as the Eagles went on a 26-10 run to make it a 70-68 game in favor of the Irish. At that point, BC ran out of gas and allowed Notre Dame to salt the win away.

Until midway through the second half, the game against Florida State was hanging in the balance. At that point, the contest was deadlocked at 52-apiece. However, from that point, Notre Dame put together a 32-17 surge that ended with an 84-69 win.

Part of that second half success can be attributed to tighter defense that limited the Seminoles to just 37 percent shooting from the field after the break. Matt Farrell’s devastating impact from long-range was the spark that the Irish offense needed as he drilled six three-pointers on the day.

Notre Dame Standouts of the Week

Matt Farrell

If his performances last week were any indication, Farrell appears to be fully recovered from his ankle trouble after a pair of solid efforts in the two victories. Against Boston College, he scored 19 and handed out seven assists, which was followed by a career-high 28 points four days later against Florida State. In the latter clash, he delivered five more assists and also added four rebounds to the winning cause.

T.J. Gibbs

Continuing his breakout season, Gibbs matched the scoring output of Farrell, albeit in reverse order. Facing the Eagles of BC, he tallied 28 on the night and followed that up with 19 against the Seminoles. On the rebounding front, he grabbed a total of eight boards in the two wins.

Rex Pflueger

Following a quiet week, Pflueger once again made his presence felt by putting up a combined 32 points in the Irish’s pair of victories. He notched 19 points against Florida State and was also effective elsewhere by dishing out 10 assists and hauling down nine boards off the glass.

Martinas Geben

Doing his part on both the scoring and rebounding front, Geben picked up a double-double against Boston College by scoring 16 and snagging 11 rebounds. He then came close again to another double-double by putting up a 10-point, eight-rebound effort against Florida State.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

Two games in front of the home base provided some needed salve to the Irish’s wounds, but they now have to go back on the road for a pair of games. The first will present a stiff challenge, considering it will take place on Monday in front of North Carolina’s rabid fans in Chapel Hill. The latter clash will be a rematch against Boston College on Saturday afternoon.

Last month, a one-point loss to the Tar Heels was the second of Notre Dame’s seven-game losing skid. In the five games that the Irish have played in Chapel Hill, they’ve come up short four times, with that one win came two years ago in a 71-70 victory. The numbers at Boston College have been much better, at least in the ACC era. In their four trips to Chestnut Hill, Notre Dame has won all four games.

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    1. ND wins on the road @ BC, 84-67. Farrell was 8-8 from behind the arc, scoring 26 in the first half, nearly matching his previous career high of 28 en route to a career best 37!
      And without Harvey again, who was scheduled to return from his knee injury but reinjured it Friday at practice and will be out for at least another week.
      Indeed, the “Fighting Irish” . . .and without Bonzie still.

  1. If the Irish can keep Robinson to 46 and under we may be able to pull off a rare road win. Smile NIT scouts are watching.

  2. A key injury in basketball can alter an entire season much more than in football or baseball (with the possible exception of the QB position, of course). That has always been the trouble with basketball.

    BGC ’77 ’82

    1. Certainly true. I imagine partly due to the fact that there’s only 5 guys on the floor at a time, and the roster for BB is much less than FB, leaving far less room for error.

      Also it seems in BB it’s a lot more centered around maybe 2 or 3 stars (though ND does a good job having multiple guys serve those roles). Losing one of them can mean the difference between a good and bad season.

      I just think for this year, Colson was such a key part of how far they could go. He was the one piece we couldn’t afford to lose this year.

  3. ND had their chances to win at UNC. But they failed to take over when given the opportunity. Then UNC found their legs and put the Irish away.

    The wheels really came off this season. Losing Colson and then Farrell for significant stretches really took the wind out of their sails. I think that more than anything argues for Brey to go to the bench a little more often. A number of players on the bench found their feet in the fire earlier then they expected and weren’t quite ready for the challenge. Brey has gotten better with using reserves, but he still traditionally only goes 7 or 8 deep a lot of times. Maybe he should push that a little further.

    That being said, though, losing 2 of your key starters for long stretches is hard to overcome probably for the best of teams. Even if Brey had some more experienced players, they probably wouldn’t have won many more games then they did.

    Unfortunately I don’t see any NCAA tournament this year or a deep ACC playoff run. An NIT bid may actually be tough to get unless they can win most of the rest of their games.

    A shame, because this year held so much promise with Colson returning. I thought they’d have another year like they did with Conaughton and Grant. An ACC championship and deep tourney run.

    1. Damian , I’m going to miss the Irish in the Big Dance this season. March Madness won’t be the same with out Notre Dame in the brackets/regional pairings.

      1. If Colson is back and Farrell stays healthy and Harvey returns to the same form he’d just reached before his injury, ND would be competitive with any team come ACC tourney time. If they don’t get that chance,it’ll mean a couple more home games in the NIT with a real shot at winning it all. I still remember my senior year when ND went to the final game in the NIT, losing it in the last few seconds.

      2. Yeah, the Irish were making some good inroads. Finally making mostly yearly trips, then actually getting to the Elite 8 two years in a row. With Colson and Farrell I really thought they had another deep tourney run in them. Now, I just don’t see how it happens unless they pull off the improbably and win the ACC playoffs, or at least get to the ACC championship game.

    1. On LB and captain Joe Schmidt’s plane ride home after the 2013 season, a fellow traveler noticed he was carrying on a ND duffel bag and asked, “Are you a student at Notre Dame”?
      Schmidt replied he was and the person remarked, ” You guys have a pretty impressive basketball program over there.” Schmidt agreed. Nothing was said about the football program. So there’s that.

      1. Don’t bother with that guy. Every time there’s a basketball article he says the same thing, yet, he posts every single time. For someone that doesn’t care that seems strange.

        Obviously someone that hasn’t followed ND in a while. I’d say in the last few years, this year notwithstanding, the BB program has been more successful then football.

      2. MTA , that’s funny. I bet the fellow traveler is from a small town in Indiana. Ya know being from Illinois , I always hoped the following teams were in the NCAA Tournament. Illini , Notre Dame , Depaul(back in the day) , Indiana and the Catholic school to the north Marquette. It was nice to see Indiana State with Larry Bird pull off that incredible season in ’79. A small time college from Terre Haute , Indiana. My brother lives in Terre Haute–and wer’e hooking up to see ISU play cross town rival Evansville Feb 21. Although I’m huge ND fan in football—My favorite past time is the sport of basketball. Every year during March Madness high school or college –I watch the movie “Hoosiers” to get my adrenalin rush going.

      3. For some reason people think by covering basketball that takes away from football. I’m a huge fan of both. I started with football, yes, but gradually started following ND’s basketball team too. They can be very exciting to watch at times, this year notwithstanding. That 2014 season was special. Beating the almighty Duke and UNC and winning the ACC championship was huge. And that Elite 8 game against UK was a heartbreaker. It seemed a lot of CBB fans were behind ND taking down UK too. I thought maybe that anti-ND bias you see in FB would leach over but it didn’t. Talking to a lot of people, some who do not like ND FB even, really wanted someone to take down UK and wipe that smirk off their coaches face.

        What really killed me most though…had ND taken down UK I really thought they had a shot at their first NC in men’s BB. It was so close you could almost taste it. I think they would have matched up favorably with Wisconsin’s style of play, and they had beaten Duke what, 3 times already. Duke had no answer for the Irish that year. Not saying it was guaranteed, but the matchups were favorable after UK. So close.

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