Brey announces Matt Farrell out indefinitely as ND prepares for Virginia Tech
Benjamin Padanilam | Friday, January 26, 2018
Heading into Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech, Notre Dame knew it would be a little shorthanded. After all, the team has been without senior forward Bonzie Colson for its last six games and freshman wing D.J. Harvey for most of the last two.
However, the Irish (13-7, 3-4 ACC) found out Thursday that the rotation against the Hokies (14-6, 3-4) would be a little thinner than even it expected.
“We’re going to shut [senior guard] Matt Farrell down again indefinitely,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “We didn’t make any progress with that thing healing up. … He was really sore Wednesday morning’s practice, so we MRI’d it and we got a bone bruise in that thing, so obviously it was a pretty violent sprain. The swelling is down, but the bone bruise was there, so definitely out the next two [games], maybe more.”
Farrell, who leads the team in assists with just over five a game while also serving as the team’s second-leading scorer at 15.7 points per game, had already missed three games this season, sitting out for a win over Syracuse and losses to Georgia Tech and No. 10 North Carolina with the sprained ankle. After playing 48 minutes in a double-overtime loss to Louisville on Jan. 16 and another 32 minutes in a loss to No. 18 Clemson on Saturday, Farrell was unable to participate in practice Sunday and Monday before being very limited Tuesday, according to Brey.
With Farrell out of the lineup, Brey said he will plug sophomore guard Nikola Djogo into the starting lineup. With the injuries piling up, the Irish have found themselves shuffling players into and out of the starting lineup, having used seven different iterations of the unit already this season. However, Brey said he has liked what he’s seen from certain guys who have been asked to step up in wake of the injuries, and he plans to have a little more continuity in the lineup going forward.
“The one thing you like is we want to keep [sophomore forward John Mooney] in the starting lineup,” Brey said. “He played well — he didn’t just score — and a guy who can just make shots, and he holds his own on the backboard. Obviously, [Nikola Djogo] goes into the starting lineup now with Matt out. Both those guys can make shots, so that will help us a little bit.”
However, despite the regular changes to the lineup, one thing has remained a constant for the Irish since the injuries: an emphasis on defense and rebounding. In six of its seven ACC games, Notre Dame has outrebounded its opponent, and it has allowed no more than 60 points in four of its seven games. Brey said he will continue to preach that emphasis going forward and hopes a few more plays on the offensive end will lead to some wins for his squad.
“My theme to our guys is, ‘You just got to continue to defend and rebound. You can’t let up on that end because that’s putting us in position,’” Brey said. “We’ve not been able to score enough, especially on the road … and we’re getting some pretty good looks, and we’ve got to make a couple of those to come home and get a win.”
Brey has continued to bring a positive attitude into the locker room, despite blow after blow being felt due to injuries, and the Irish head coach said he hasn’t had much of a problem keeping his team focused and confident they can fight through the tough stretch. While Brey said graduate student forward Austin Torres has provided a leadership boost of late, including after last Saturday’s loss, Torres said he’s been just one of the many players who have stepped up with two of the squad’s key seniors now out for the time being.
“It’s really difficult, but we’ve got the voice of great leaders on this team,” Torres said. “We’re going to continue to do our best. [Irish senior forward Martinas] Geben and [junior guard] Rex Pflueger have brought a lot of energy and brought a lot of leadership to this team, and that’s what we’re going to need throughout the rest of the year.”
That leadership will immediately be put to the test, as the Irish welcome a Hokies squad that is fresh off a victory against the 10th-ranked Tar Heels on Monday night. Given a victory in any ACC game is difficult to come by, Geben said finding a way to come away with a win Saturday at Purcell Pavilion could provide some much needed momentum heading into perhaps the team’s most difficult matchup — a road trip to Durham, North Carolina, to take on No. 4 Duke.
“[A win would mean] a lot,” Geben said. “It would boost the team morale a lot, give us energy moving forward. We have a stretch of games coming up that are very important, and this win could be a make-or-break for us.”
And according to Torres, the key to getting that win for the Irish will just be playing within themselves and not worrying about any perceived pressure to fill the void created by the injuries.
“We’ve just got to continue to stay together, enjoy the journey and not necessarily feel like we’ve got a lot of pressure on ourselves because we really don’t,” Torres said. “It’s about our team and it’s about us, and it’s about our guys getting better each and every day to try to get wins at home and also on the road, so we’re just going to continue to do our best.”
And when the Irish and Hokies tip off Saturday at 8 p.m. in Purcell Pavilion, that’s precisely what Brey expects from his team: Its best.
“We will battle, we’ll compete — I mean, that’s who we’ve been,” Brey said. “Since Georgia Tech, we’ve had to deal with all of it, and we’re putting ourselves in position. I have every reason to believe we’ll put ourselves in position on Saturday night again.”