Irish knock off DePaul on the road to open season
Meagan Bens | Monday, November 13, 2017
In the first regular season opener on the road in the Mike Brey era, Notre Dame defeated DePaul 72-58 at the new Wintrust Arena on Saturday — moving to 18-0 in season openers under Brey.
Although the Irish had a slow start to the game, leading 29-25 at the halftime break, their second-half shooting and 12 3-pointers propelled them to victory. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs had a career-high 21 points, senior forward Bonzie Colson recorded a double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds, and senior guard Matt Farrell poured in 15 points for Notre Dame (1-0).
“I’m really proud of our team going on the road and opening up with an emotional group at DePaul,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “Open a new building and take some punches from them and try to find a way to win. I think our defense was good the whole game. And eventually we got into some good offensive rhythm. I think an older group that has won together kind of showed up the last 10 minutes of the game. It’s something for us to build on from the first game for the rest of the season.”
Starting the second half with the some quick momentum, DePaul (0-1) crept just one point behind Notre Dame, 31-30, but the Irish seniors ramped up their game.
“[Farrell’s] a fearless guy,” Brey said. “There’s a mental toughness and belief about this nucleus that they are going to find a way to do it. I love the fact that even though we weren’t making our shots, we didn’t let it affect our defense. Other teams I have had have done that. They keep digging and guarding and eventually they got on a heck of a run. I didn’t know we made eight threes in a row. Matt Farrell just sets a great toughness tone.”
Gibbs and Farrell hit back-to-back 3-pointers to quiet Wintrust Arean, giving Notre Dame a 37-30 lead. With under nine minutes left to play, junior guard Rex Pfleuger hit a 3 to give the Irish their first double-digit lead at 57-47 and a ride towards a 72-58 victory.
Relying on the seniors’ patience and experience, Brey said Notre Dame was able to lock down on offense and finesse a win as fatigue set into the Blue Demons.
“We had better movement, didn’t force some plays in the second half,” Brey said. “And I think they got a little tired. The last 10 minutes they got a little tired and we’re just a little older. We’re more experienced and I’m thrilled how we figured out how to get it done on the road.”
With the Colson and Farrell setting the tone of play, Brey also mentioned Gibbs’ notable performance is a result of the seniors’ leadership.
“[T.J.’s] been great in practice. He stats out right behind Bonzie Colson a lot of times and he is a fearless guy. Last year we would play him for 12 minutes and he’d score eight. So if you give him extended minutes, I thought he’d come around . . .
Brey also had positive things to say of freshman forward D.J. Harvey’s first collegiate start.
“I’ve been excited about [Harvey] since the first day of practice,” Brey said. “He’s not your normal looking freshman obviously, physically. What has helped him is that he is the only freshman that has played with older guys for five months. They taught him how to slow down and play. His buckets were big buckets today. Plays on the road well, and I’m pleased [with him] and it’s good confidence.”
Moving on from the opening road game to the opening home game, the Irish will play Mount St. Mary’s at 7 p.m. Monday inside Purcell Pavilion.
“Love that we get to play again, it will be our home opener so I hope our home crowd will be excited and welcome us,” Brey said. “And we have two more games until we head to Maui for an unbelievable experience.”