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Men’s Basketball

Shooting, turnovers plague Notre Dame as season ends with loss to Penn State

| Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story was published online March 17.

Not even St. Patrick’s Day could bring some luck to the Irish on Saturday.

For the last few years of its success, Notre Dame has built its program into one that can shoot from beyond the arc, pass the ball around the court and take care of the basketball at a relatively elite level.

So it only seems fitting that those three characteristics would elude the top-seeded Irish (21-15, 8-10 ACC) against the fourth-seeded Nittany Lions on Saturday. As a result, the Irish would lose 73-63, bringing a season in which nothing seemed to bounce Notre Dame’s way to an appropriately early end in the NIT.

In the first half of their second round contest with Penn State (23-13, 9-9 Big Ten), the Irish had as many turnovers as field goals — shooting a meager 7-of-28 from the floor — and assisted on only three of those baskets.

And for just the 10th time in head coach Mike Brey’s 18 seasons at Notre Dame, the Irish went without a 3-point field goal in the period, missing all seven of their attempts from behind the NIT’s extended 3-point line. Brey credited Penn State’s length and athleticism, particularly in the way they defended senior guard Matt Farrell, who finished 0-for-3 in the half and 1-for-9 for the game from beyond the arc.

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior guard Matt Farrell pushes the tempo while dribbling up the court during Notre Dame’s 84-63 win over Hampton on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

“I think you have to give Penn State a lot of credit. I thought they were really good and defended us really well,” Brey said. “ … We just couldn’t get into any offensive rhythm, and I think Penn State is the one to give credit to, I thought they were really good defensively.”

“ … They’ve got great length and size. They switch a lot of stuff with athletic guys, they’re an athletic group. The size of their perimeter players really gave us problems, especially Matt. They’re doubling and there’s a lot of length around him. People have come after him and taken him away, and they did a very good job tonight of taking him away.”

The Irish would eventually knock down one from deep when senior forward Bonzie Colson connected with 2:25 left in the third quarter, but it would be one of the four they hit for the entirety of the game, finishing a mere 4-for-22 from beyond the arc in the game. They would also finish with 12 turnovers in the contest and 20 personal fouls.

And that was just the insult to the injury that crept its way back into Notre Dame’s season in the third quarter of Saturday’s game after rearing its head for 15 games early this season.

Colson, who finished the game with 16 points and nine rebounds, would spend most of the last quarter of his collegiate career on the bench with ice wrapped around the very left foot he fractured back in January.

“My foot kind of went inward a little bit, and actually felt a little worse than when it did in practice the first time [when I initially broke it],” Colson said. “Just got to get another X-ray soon, figure out what it is and deal with it and go from there.”

Emma Farnan | The Observer
Irish senior forward Bonzie Colson shoots a free throw during Notre Dame’s 84-63 win over Hampton on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

But fortunately for him, he would be able to make one last appearance with Farrell, senior forward Martinas Geben and graduate student forward Austin Torres on the floor for the final 35 seconds of action. And according to Brey, it was because he put himself in — something Brey said he has never had happen in his coaching career.

“He put himself in. I told him I didn’t think it was a good idea, he walked right by and goes, ‘I’m going in,’” Brey said. “I go, ‘Go ahead. Go on in.’ That’s great, he got one more hand and that was awesome. He put himself in the game there.”

“I just wanted to be out there,” Colson said. “This place means a lot to me. … Just wanted to be out there on the court, just embracing with my brothers. We’ve had an unbelievable season, we’ve had unbelievable careers … so just wanted to be out there and soak in the last moments I have out there playing in this arena.”

Of course, the season didn’t end exactly how the Irish had hoped — a second-round exit in the NIT in a game in which they never led, trailing from the first basket onward and by as many as 14 points. Yet, for Farrell, it doesn’t tarnish what his time at Notre Dame has meant to him.

“It’s tough. It sucks. It was going to end someday,” Farrell said. “Obviously, we didn’t like the way we played tonight. … Coming in here and talking to all the guys, it’s kind of surreal. It ends really fast.

“But looking back on everything, won’t take anything back. Don’t regret anything at all. It’s been a blessing for me. It’s been the best four years of my life for sure, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Love these guys, and I love this place.”

And Farrell’s feelings were very much echoed by Geben and Colson as they reflected on the end of their careers donning the blue and gold.

“The past four years could be summarized with a lot of growth from me. I was able to grow this year and grow into the athlete and competitor that this team needed,” Geben said. “Disappointing with all that’s happened that we haven’t been able to end the season the way we wanted to, but I think we’re leaving a great legacy behind.”

“I’ve been blessed,” Colson said. “ … This place has meant everything to me. Gaining relationships with my teammates each year, the locker room conversations, the team meals, the playing 2K in the locker room — all those things are just something that I’m going to miss.

“It’s more than a game. This is brotherhood. … We’re going to stay in touch and we’re going to stay together, and I feel that. It’s been a special year, and I’m thankful and blessed to be here. It’s a place I’ll never forget.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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