The last time we got together, Bonzie Colson went #BeastMode and scored a career high 37 points and Rex Pflueger struggled at moments. It’s incredible what a difference 48 hours makes. Before the Irish can get to conference play next week, the Irish had a non-conference opponent in (SLU) Southeastern Louisiana University to play Thursday night. Let’s reach for the jump ball and go through Thursday night’s game and put a bow on the non-conference schedule.
To kick off the scoring on Thursday night, Rex Pflueger scored the Irish first points of the game. The Irish took advantage of the Lions sloppy ball handling in the first half. Whether it was a turnover, or a missed shot, the Irish defense did everything possible to capitalize on their opponents sloppy ball handling.
The Irish were not perfect either. The Lions were cleaning the glass on the defensive end. The Lions had 17 defensive rebounds and the Irish struggled to clean the offensive glass with only five offensive rebounds.
The bonus was that the Irish were able to get to the foul line where the Irish made 8-10 from the charity stripe, scoring without the clock running. The Lions were 1-2 on their free throws.
The Irish struggled to maintain a keep the foot on the throttle mindset. The lack of aggressive consistent play allowed the Lions to go on mini 6-0 run just before the half that was stopped by a Pflueger three pointer just before the half. The Irish would go into the locker room with a 37-29 lead. Farrell led all scorers with 11 points with 2-5 from 3 point range, Pflueger had 10 points, 2-4 from three-point range and Colson had 7.
The Irish came out of the locker room and continued their drive the ball mentality. The second half started with the Irish on the charity stripe once again. Scoring with the clock not running is what this team thrives on, making 11-12 free-throws in the second half.
The big difference in the second half was the Irish was rebounding on the defensive side of the ball. This led to less second chance points for the Lions; in fact, the Lions had zero second chance points in the second half.
Martinas Geben had 2 monster rejections, along with Burns, Harvey, and Mooney each with a single rejection each in the second half.
The Fighting Irish outscored the Lions 49-21 in the second half and walked away with a 86-50 win over the Lions.
Pflueger, though not the highest scoring player of the night with 17 points and 3-6 from beyond the arc, had a career night. Pflueger, who had been struggling a bit, found the inside of the bucket and appeared to be at ease with his play, not putting pressure on himself when he missed. TJ Gibbs led all scorers with 18 points and 5 rebounds, Matt Farrell had 17 points and 2-6 from three-point range, and Bonzie Colson had 16 points and 10 rebounds. Once again, the starters were putting quality time in the match. Pflueger had 33 minutes, TJ Gibbs put in 32 minutes, Farrell put in 31 minutes, and rounding out the group was Bonzie Colson with 28 minutes.
Coach Brey’s post game conference opened abruptly and the opening statement was straight forward. Coach said “It was neat to see all three of our guards in a good offensive rhythm. We are going to need to see that on a number of nights in ACC play. We have been pretty good offensively the last two games on our floor and hopefully we can feel good about that when we come back and play a home and away games.”
There was a statement made about Pflueger and how he just needs to shoot the ball. Coach responded “don’t over analyze it. We want him to take open shots and make plays. One heck of a night for him, he is a weapon for us and he is doing everything for us on the other end of the floor. He is rebounding and getting his hands on stuff, he is such a winner. He deserves it. He was a little calmer, we tried to get him to play with a smile a little bit more, not to get tied up in knots if he missed a shot, and hopefully that will help him. I hope he can build on this. I think Mooney gave us some good stuff tonight.”
Coach discussed the guys getting away from the team and recharging. “We have traveled a lot together, 7 games away, we have together and we are like an old married couple, we need a little break. I will see you Tuesday night.”
The next question to Coach was what do you want them to do at home? Coach emphatically states “No pick up games, no one-on-ones. Don’t you dare get involved in a pick up game and get in a one-on-one. This an experience at Delaware in which a player got high ankle sprain and wasn’t the same after that. Most importantly listen to your body.”
I asked a question to Coach about the 5’9″ guard from SLU who led his team with seven defensive rebounds, who he would match up with in the ACC? Coach Brey’s response, “A seven rebounding guard, I don’t know if we have anyone. The guard at Duke rebounds, he is really athletic, he can really rebound. What helped us was not guarding him man-to-man. If we had to deal with him man-to-man on ball screens, that’s when he has a field day. He had to run zone offense and it changed the rhythm a little bit.”
Next up for the Fighting Irish is Georgia Tech at 2 PM at the Purcell Pavilion. Coach Brey gets win 392 and goes for win 393 to tie Digger Phelps in career wins at Notre Dame. Merry Christmas and Go Irish!!
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