Notre Dame prepares for Ball State after chaotic week
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, December 5, 2017
It’s been a weird week-and-a-half for Notre Dame men’s basketball.
If you made a movie about it, you’d have to cast Clint Eastwood because there’s been some good, some bad and some ugly.
The good was Notre Dame’s comeback win over No. 6 Wichita State to win the Maui Invitational in the days before Thanksgiving. The win launched Notre Dame to a top-five ranking.
The bad came last Thursday as Notre Dame (7-1) lost by 18 points to Michigan State on the road. While there’s no shame in losing to the nation’s No. 3 team, the game got away from the Irish early and they never got within seven points of the lead in the second half.
And the ugly came Sunday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion as a seemingly easy matchup against St. Francis Brooklyn turned into a chippy affair with senior forward Bonzie Colson and head coach Mike Brey getting ejected from the game. Notre Dame won 71-53, despite the absence of two team leaders.
Ahead of its Tuesday night game against Ball State, Notre Dame will look for more consistency as it looks to get back to form. For Brey’s squad, that starts on the offensive end of the court.
Sunday’s ejections took a lot of attention away from Notre Dame’s offensive struggles. Against the Terriers (2-6), the Irish shot just 21 percent from 3-point range with senior guard Matt Farrell going 0-for-8.
Farrell shot under 50 percent for the game and made four of his eight shots in last Thursday’s game against the Spartans (7-1, 1-0 Big Ten). Colson, too, has struggled with his shooting stroke in the last two games. Against Michigan State, Colson shot just 6-of-19 and went 5-of-11 on Sunday before he was ejected.
After the game, Colson said the ejection taught him he has to stay more composed on the court in tough situations.
“[Getting ejected] taught me to be better, be a little smarter,” Colson said. “Understand that guys are going to try and come after you and get the ball. You just have to be strong with it and chin the ball.”
One player who has picked up his offensive game, however, has been senior forward Martinas Geben. On Sunday, Geben picked up his first career double-double with a career-high 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Brey said Geben’s strong play as of late has been generated by an increased level of confidence which started over the summer when Geben won a gold medal with the Lithuanian national team at the World University Games.
“One of the things I told the staff when he came back from his gold-medal experience was, ‘he is at an all-time high in confidence and darn if I’m going to do anything to screw that up,’” Brey said.
Colson too, said he’s been impressed by Geben’s recent play.
“He’s great, we’re excited for him,” Colson said. “He’s been due to have one of those breakout games. He’s been starting in practice, scoring, rebounding. For him to come out here and do well and score is great for us.”
Brey said Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals (4-4) will have a good energy as Ball State fans will make the short trip to South Bend.
“We need our crowd, we really need our crowd,” Brey said. “As we all know, there’s a big Ball State alumni base in this town and I have a feeling they got their hands on tickets.”
But fans or not, Brey said the Cardinals will present a tough challenge for his team, and the Irish will prepare accordingly.
“They’re a dangerous team, they’re a team that could win their division of the MAC,” Brey said. “We’re preparing like it’s NC State coming in here.”