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Notre Dame rebounds with victory against Wake Forest

| Monday, February 26, 2018

A late three by senior guard Matt Farrell kept the Irish’s NCAA hopes alive and helped seal a second half comeback against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons 76-71.

Despite not having success closing out games recently, the Irish (17-12, 7-9 ACC) were able to make plays down the stretch against the Demon Deacons (11-18, 4-13 ACC).

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Senior guard Matt Farrell tries to dribble around a Miami player in Purcell Pavilion on Feb. 19.

“I’m really proud of our group. That’s a great win for us,” head coach Mike Brey said. “[Wake Forest] is a really gifted offensive team. It was hard for us to guard them.”

In a close back and forth battle throughout the first half, the Irish found themselves trailing 41-36 at half time. Farrell attributed the poor first half to a lack quality play on defense.

“We didn’t defend in the first half,” he said. “We didn’t defend in the first ten minutes of the second half. We know we can be a really good team, but we can’t be lazy on that end … we can’t do that anymore.”

The Irish started the second half off strong with an 11-2 run that gave them a 47-44 lead with 17:41 remaining in the game. The Demon Deacons would answer with their own run outscoring the Irish 18-7 to take a 62-54 lead with 12:20 left to play. Both teams would exchange baskets, but the lack of defense would once again plague the Irish as they found themselves down by as many as nine, trailing 69-60 with 8:08 remaining in the game.

An 8-0 run by the Irish capped off a by three from junior Rex Pflueger cut the lead to one 69-68 with 5:48 remaining in the game, and Farrell would give the Irish a lead late in the second half with a three to put the Irish 71-69 with 3:19 remaining in the game. The made three gave Farrell 1,000 career points, making him the 62nd player in program history with that accomplishment.

A late foul by sophomore wing Nikola Djogo, and two made free-throws led Wake Forest to tie the game 71-71 with 2:55 remaining. After a staunch defensive battle between both teams the game appeared to be heading into overtime until a ball screen by senior center Martinas Geben helped give Farrell enough separation to get off a three to give ND the lead once again with eight seconds remaining in the game. Wake Forest couldn’t answer and two free throws from Geben sealed the win for the Irish.

Coming out of the time out, Farrell said he knew exactly what play he wanted to run in the closing seconds.

“I told coach I was going to run a [ball screen] again and make a read off of it,” he said. “Once the big took a step back I shot it and put it up. … After everything we’ve been through I just had to take the shot with confidence.”

Farrell wasn’t the only person confidence in the shot. Geben said he knew Farrell had the ability to make the big shot down the stretch.

“I had full faith in him. He’s taken those shots, and he’s made those shots. It’s not that big of a surprise for us that he made that shot,” Geben said.

Brey said he believes the team is finally recovering from numerous team injuries and thanks his seniors for leading the way.

“We have been dealt a crazy hand on the injury front, but we never used it as an excuse,” he said. “Other guys have come in and battles and played. I think it’s the culture of the program that has a lot of character and certainly our senior class. Martinas and Matty [Farrell] set an unbelievable tone out there for us today.”

Farrell and Geben highlighted a trio of Irish starters that finished with at least 20 points.  Geben led all scorers with a game high 22 point and 14 rebounds, while Farrell added 21 points and six assists, finishing 4-9 from three-point range. Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs contributed 20 points.

Geben said he believed the Irish finally played liked themselves and called the win “satisfying.”

“We played like us,“ he said. “We’re the team that’s able to be down and make the tough plays, got defensive stops when we needed them. [We] looked like the old us that everyone knows. … It was very satisfying that we were finally able to make those plays.“

The Irish will continue ACC play when they host the Pittsburgh (8-22, 0-17 ACC) for Senior Night. The Irish are also expecting the return of senior forward Bonzie Colson, who has been out since early January with a broken foot. With two games remaining in the regular season and the return of Colson to the lineup, Farrell is looking forward to next game.

“We’re not done yet were going to keep fighting like we have all year,” he said. “We have an important one of Wednesday night. It should be a fun night.”



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