Blue and Gold Illustrated

January 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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46 JANUARY 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY COREY BODDEN N otre Dame was riding high after capturing the Maui In- vitational title, cruising to the championship game before taking down then-No. 6 Wichita State 67-66 in dramatic fashion. Expectations were amped up a notch when the Irish climbed to No. 5 in the Associated Press poll and headed to East Lansing, Mich., for a showdown against then-No. 3 Michi- gan State Nov. 30. The Irish sat at 6-0, while the Spar- tans were 5-1 and fresh off a thrash- ing of top-10 North Carolina, with a lone loss to then-No. 1 Duke earlier in the season. But an issue that had presented itself in previous games against the Shockers and DePaul was exploited by Michigan State — Notre Dame's lack of offensive consistency. Michigan State took a 31-11 lead just 10 minutes into the game and sur- vived an Irish rally that reduced the margin down to seven (53-46) with 13 minutes remaining. The Spartans wound up pulling away for an 81-63 victory. Notre Dame had been sluggish of- fensively in several games, but given that Michigan State is one of the top two or three teams in the country, the performance was understandable. Against St. Francis Brooklyn Dec. 3, Notre Dame shot 55.2 percent (16 of 29) in the first half before falling flat in the second and converting a lowly 27.6 percent (8 of 29), including 1 of 7 behind the three-point arc to finish the game 3 of 14 (21.4 percent). It was another example of an offense still try- ing to find a rhythm. A home game against Ball State fol- lowed Dec. 5, as did the wakeup call. The Cardinals took a 34-29 advantage into the break, and the lead went back and forth between the teams during the final 20 minutes. Senior point guard Matt Farrell drilled a three to tie it up at 77 with less than 30 seconds remaining. Ball State guard Tayler Persons hit a dag- ger three-pointer on the other end with less than two seconds remaining to pull off the upset. "We're going to take the loss as a challenge," Farrell said. "We knew it was going to be a long journey. We have some stuff to learn. "You have to move on … showing maturity that we can take a punch. We'll be taking punches all year. So, it's good these happen now, and we can learn from them. You have to get bet- ter. That's the only attitude you need and what we need to have as a team." Fellow senior Bonzie Colson felt the same following the Ball State loss and echoed the team is still putting it all together. "We're still learning about who we are," Colson explained. "We still have to get better as a group. "We don't really want to overthink it. We'll continue doing what we do and continue to get our offense into good spots for people to score. … We still have to dig in and defend even if our offense isn't going well." Head coach Mike Brey wanted his team to understand that they are still developing. "My thing was, 'Fellas, we win Maui and we rocket to fifth in the country, and everybody thinks we're a finished product,'" Brey stated. "I said, 'We still have some things to answer and figure out. Let's remem- ber we're still in the process. … Let's tweak a few things — not wholesale stuff — and see if we can get it done.'" Pushing the ball down the court quicker on made and missed shots by opponents was a practice focus in the days leading up to the team's Dec. 9 showdown at Delaware, where Brey Head coach Mike Brey's team struggled with offensive consistency after winning the Maui Invitational and suffered an 80-77 upset loss to Ball State Dec. 5. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN SEARCHING FOR RHYTHM Notre Dame is looking to find consistency on offense

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