Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Notebook: Louisville

January 5, 2017

The 2016-17 basketball season is quickly becoming about grit for the Notre Dame basketball team. Head coach Mike Brey knows there are multiple things he needs to fix, but his team keeps grinding away and on Wednesday night knocked off Louisville, the No. 9 team in the
county 77-70.

Notre Dame couldn’t buy a bucket over the final 10 minutes of the game, but Brey’s team found a way to get to the foul line and play tough defense.

“It’s hard to score on those dudes,” Brey said of the taller and longer Louisville squad. “I thought we were mentally tough. We weren’t flowing offensively, but we went back and guarded. A kill is three stops, we’ve talked about that, we’ve done that now two games in a row, where we gotten kills under four minutes to win the game.”  

The Irish shot just 12 three-pointers on the night and that was by design. Brey wanted his guys to attack the cup to take advantage of some mismatches, but also to get to the free throw line.

“We said to drive the heck out of it and that’s why our assists weren’t up there,” Brey explained. “We wanted to just keep driving and we got to the foul line. The foul line was a great weapon for us and this was a team you had to drive against.

“There are a lot of mismatches. Steve (Vasturia), Matty (Farrell) and TJ Gibbs did a great job of driving big guys after a switch.”

Against the bigger Cardinal team, Notre Dame won the battle on the glass 38-35, but also points in the paint 34-32. There were struggles to score and to rebound, but the Irish got made the crucial plays to win the game.

“We played pretty much with one big guy,” said Brey. “We started with two bigs and we finished with two bigs, but we really downshifted. That really gave us the ability to drive and spread them out. It also gave Bonzie some stuff in the paint.

“When we do that against a big team, I am always worried about if we can rebound well enough. We did tonight, except for that one spurt in the second half and we put Martinas back in. It kind of held the fort a little bit for us and we rebounded.”  

Notre Dame has relied on its bench this season, as it goes nine deep. Austin Torres is known for his energy, but on Wednesday, the senior filled up the stat sheet.

In just four minutes of play, Torres had six points, one rebound, two blocks and a steal.
“That’s really hard to do,” stated Brey. “He knows he is going to get a small part, but he knows who he is. He embraces it and his stuff tonight was such a key. He’s energy, scoring and flying around. He knows it’s going to be a short burst, but man, he’s a key for us.

“Austin isn’t a captain, but he’s a heck of a leader for us. How he talks in our locker room before the game and in our huddles. He only played one minute at Pittsburgh, but every time we came into a time out, he was the first guy talking.  He’s such a team guy and because he’s into it and not pouting, he can do this tonight.”  

I think I got the best guards in the country. - Mike Brey
Matt Farrell is the most improved player in the country and it’s really not close. Steve Vasturia has consistently put the team on his back and made crucial plays to end games this season.

The two players stepped up again on Wednesday, as VJ Beachem struggled.

Farrell ended his night with 22 points, three rebounds and two assists, while Vasturia scored 24 points and pulled down six boars.

“I think I got the best guards in the country,” stated Brey. “They are the toughest. Those two guys are tough, fearless and their basketball IQ is high. Right now they are setting an unbelievable tone for us in league play.”

For Beachem, it was another struggle. The senior forward didn’t attempt a shot in the first half of the game and scored just two points on 1 of 3 shooting. The Fort Wayne native was active on defense, but lacked an aggression on offense and Louisville got away with putting a 6-foot guard on him at times in the second half.

“We ran a couple things for him and he got the one shot and had another good look,” said Brey. “I thought he helped us move and he’s that senior presence out there that helps us flow. It will come back to him.

“The worst thing to do right now is to overanalyze him. He needs to get right back on the horse on Saturday and keep playing. It could be his day on Saturday afternoon.”  

Sitting a perfect 2-0 in the ACC, the Irish will host Clemson (11-3, 1-1) on Saturday and its chance to really get ahead of the curve to make the NCAA Tournament.

“I told them to be greedy,” Brey said. “We’re 2-0 in the league and we’ll get some rest tomorrow. We all need a little rest. We’ll tune it up for practice for about 60 minutes on Friday. If we can get to 3-0 in this league and then get a break before we go on the road, it would be unbelievable.

“I talked to them about going to Brooklyn and we had a week to make a move. We did. We are talking about this week about a week to make a move. If we get the third one, we’ve made a heck of a move in January.”
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