Irish roll past Seattle off hot 3-point shooting
Alex Carson | Thursday, November 17, 2016
After struggling a bit in its first outing of the regular season Saturday, Notre Dame told a different story Wednesday night, rolling past Seattle 92-49 at Purcell Pavilion.
Just four days after shooting only 3-for-16 from behind the arc, the Irish (2-0) hit 10 3-pointers in the first half Wednesday en route to a 15-of-34 performance from deep. Irish junior guard Matt Farrell said shots opened up for Notre Dame because it attacked Seattle’s zone, not because the team necessarily set out to take a high volume of 3-pointers.
“We can definitely shoot; that’s something we’ve always been able to do,” Farrell said. “ … If people are gonna zone us like that, it helps when we get in there and attack, make guys commit — then we kick it out. ’Cause if we’re taking good shots and people are wide open, there’s a good chance it’s gonna go in.”
Notre Dame tied a school record Wednesday night as six Irish players hit double figures: Farrell, freshman guard T.J. Gibbs and sophomore guard Rex Pflueger joined the team’s three captains — senior forward V.J. Beachem, junior forward Bonzie Colson and senior guard Steve Vasturia — with 10 or more points. Irish head coach Mike Brey says he likes his team’s depth as the season gets underway.
“I like playing more guys because we still take care of the ball,” Brey said. “A lot of times when you play more than seven or eight guys, your ball handling maybe can dwindle; your assist-to-turnover [can too]. But we really have a group of guys that are great with the ball.”
Farrell’s 13 points were a career high, and the starting point guard said the Irish coaches have been encouraging him to shoot more this season.
“If I’m open, I’m gonna shoot it,” Farrell said. “‘Shooters shoot,’ that’s what everyone’s telling me. They’re telling me to take my shot, [so] I’m gonna take it.”
While it took more than two minutes for the Irish to score — the Redhawks (1-2) scored the game’s first points — it didn’t take long for them to open up a double-digit lead. A 7-6 Irish lead ballooned to a 19-6 one before the under-12 media timeout on the strength of Notre Dame’s senior captains, while the advantage was pushed past 20 when Farrell buried a 3-pointer to make it 41-20 with 5:48 to play in the half.
The Irish lead didn’t stop there, though, as Seattle went without a field goal in the last 6:07 of the first half, allowing Notre Dame to carry a 56-25 edge into halftime. That defensive effort got postgame praise from Brey.
“We’re better defensively, I think, than last year — we really are,” Brey said. “And we can keep some fresh bodies rotated through and that helps us.”
The second half turned out to be much of the same. Seattle rattled off the first five points of the half, but the Irish lead never got smaller than 26 the rest of the way — it was stretched to its greatest point with 1:13 to play, when Pflueger got a steal and hit a layup to make it 92-46.
There was a moment of concern for the Irish with 13:16 to play, when Colson landed awkwardly on his left leg after a tip-in dunk. After hobbling to the bench, the junior captain returned to the game less than five minutes later.
“I knew it was a cramp ’cause as soon as I jumped, I felt it,” Colson said. “I just knew I needed to take some cramp juice and I’d be fine.”
While the 92-point outlay might lead most headlines, the Irish forced 21 turnovers in holding their opponents under the half-century mark Wednesday night, with just one Seattle player — redshirt freshman guard Matej Kavas — scoring in double figures. Brey said Notre Dame’s point guard rotation, where each Farrell and Gibbs saw 20-plus minutes against the Redhawks, helps the Irish pressure opponents more than they did last season.
“One of the things I think that’s helped us defensively is to keep a fresh point guard in to pick the other team up three-quarter court and zig-zag ’em,” Brey said. “I think that’s helped our half-court defense that we’ve wore a point guard maybe down a little bit by keeping a fresh guy in to zig-zag.”
Notre Dame will be back in action Friday night, when it hosts Loyola Maryland on Friday night at Purcell Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.