Notre Dame hosts Bryant in regular season opener
Manuel De Jesus | Friday, November 11, 2016
Coming off two straight Elite Eight appearances, Notre Dame will begin its 2016-2017 campaign against Bryant on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.
Just as they were after their first Elite Eight run two seasons ago, the Irish were met with a multitude of questions regarding who would lead the new-look team after it walked off the court this past March. Following a couple of preseason games — in which the Irish defeated Mercy 119-58 and Catholic 103-48 — Irish head coach Mike Brey said he is more than confident in his team’s abilities from what he saw in the exhibition slate. More than anything, he’s hoping Notre Dame’s passing continues to excel.
“I would love to see us keep sharing that ball,” Brey said. “A couple of things that I’ve stressed on tape to them this morning is that I loved our outlets. We’re getting the ball out. I love how we’re skip passing. We’re throwing that ball across the court, and we’re stretching the floor. Again, our unselfishness has been excellent. We’re making sure we’re getting great shots for the most part. I don’t think we’re taking bad shots.”
Against Mercy and Catholic, the Irish recorded 26 and 28 assists, respectively. Junior guard Matt Farrell, who will make his first career regular season start in the season opener, led the team in that category in both games by recording 18 total assists. In addition to Farrell, junior forward Martinas Geben will make just his second career start against Bryant. He scored 23 points and pulled down 16 boards between his two trial games as the team’s new big man.
The other three starters, senior forward V.J. Beachem, senior guard Steve Vasturia and junior forward Bonzie Colson, have been named this season’s captains, and, according to Brey, they’re more than ready to lead this season’s team to another deep tournament run.
“The older guys are kind of like, ‘Alright, here we go,’” Brey said. “This is all part of [their] resume. Starting Saturday is part of [their] resume, and so I think there’s a heightened awareness and they’re excited that we have a bunch of games coming in a row so we don’t have to practice six days in between games. We get to play other people. With the summer practices and the September practices … we’ve been together a lot, and it’s been good — it’s really been good — but you can get some burnout with pounding on each other a little bit. I like that we have a couple of games coming, and we can evaluate them in that and see how some of our young guys play in that atmosphere.”
The Irish managed to play a handful of new players, including last season’s four-star high school recruit, freshman guard T.J. Gibbs. The Scotch Plains, New Jersey, native came off the bench for Farrell and played a total of 35 minutes in the preseason, recording a total of 19 points and 13 assists. The other new face, sophomore forward Elijah Burns — who redshirted last season — scored 14 points and had five rebounds in 24 minutes of preseason action.
Brey acknowledged that with the season starting, many of his players won’t see the minutes they saw in the preseason, but that’s all part of finding a consistent rotation that will give the team a rhythm as it progresses throughout the season he added.
“That’s where the reality will come in on Saturday,” Brey said. “The minutes won’t all be the same. Then, you have to spend time and be ready — number one, the assistants with those guys who are playing and still talking to them about big picture, and then eventually my communication with them and getting to really managing guys and their psyche during that time. Saturday is when it’ll start, and then we’ll have a couple [games] in a row.”
Notre Dame hosts Bryant in its season opener Saturday at Purcell Pavilion. Tipoff is scheduled for noon.