Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Clemson

January 7, 2017

When Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey has talked about the ACC this season, he has consistently mentioned how tough the league is and the challenge of managing his team during conference play.

The Irish passed the first week with flying colors, as Notre Dame moved a perfect 3-0 in the ACC with a thrilling 75-70 win over Clemson, but now the Irish must rest.

“I am not shocked because I knew the league was really balanced and people would be taking punches,” Brey said of the crazy first week in the ACC. “I certainly expected to take one or two already. I am thrilled we are sitting at 3-0. It’s a great way to start this league.

“We’re going to enjoy it and get some rest for another 24 hours and maybe even 48 hours. We’ll get back to work on Monday.”  

Why is rest on Brey’s mind just a week into ACC play? Two of his stars are going through playing extensive minutes for the first in their career. Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell have played big minutes in the past, but they haven’t been counted on to deliver every night while playing longer minutes.

“I think the biggest thing for me is to keep us fresh mentally and physically,” explained Brey after the win. “This league is grueling. We just experienced it. You also have Farrell and Bonzie in new territory with game minutes. They have played 30-plus minutes three times now in a week. (Steve) Vasturia and (VJ) Beachem could do that all night long. They’ve been trained to do that for a while.

“I really have to be very plugged in to Bonzie’s and Farrell’s bodies, legs and what we are doing with the ice tub. How long are we practicing? What are we doing in the weight room flexibility wise? We still have 15 league games.”

Colson registered 34 minutes on Saturday, but he produced. The junior forward recorded his 10th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 boards against a big Clemson front line.

“He’s a fearless dude,” stated Brey. “The physical pounding he takes from big guys and to do it over and over again – the man needs some rest. I don’t want to see him sweating until Tuesday.”

To be where we are in the league is fabulous right now. It’s going to be hard. - Mike Brey
Brey was also extremely pleased to see his senior forward VJ Beachem finally get back on track on Saturday with 22 points that included eight three-pointers. The Fort Wayne native had struggled in Notre Dame’s first two ACC games, but came to play when his team need him the most on Saturday.

“It’s only a matter of time with him,” Brey said of Beachem. “It was great timing on his part. If he’s not going in the first half, we might be down 25. We were a mess. You have to give Clemson some credit. Their defense was very good in the first ten minutes.

“I was thrilled to see him and the law of averages kicks in. It was a game we were able to get some kick outs to him. He made some shots to get himself started.”  

In terms of the ACC, Notre Dame will start a three game road trip over the next week where they will play at Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State.

“We got three tough ones on the road,” said Brey. “We need some rest right now. We’ll dig back into Miami on Monday. To be where we are in the league is fabulous right now. It’s going to be hard.”

Notre Dame has just done enough in the final seconds of the first three ACC games to get to 3-0 and Farrell was the key to that on Saturday, as he was the first two wins against Pittsburgh and Louisville.

“3-0 by the skin of our teeth,” laughed Brey. “It may not be skin of the teeth. We really kind of believe when we get into these situations. It’s part o the culture and we have some fearless guys.

“I thought Matt Farrell had a great bounce back half. He was a mess and I think he was a little fatigued. For him to play the minutes and be the guy for two games before today, I thought it took its toll watching him Friday in practice.”

Farrell came big in the second half with 12 points and three assists, however, that was after a terrible first half. The junior point guard struggled running the offense, as he recorded four first half turnovers and Brey let him know his displeasure at halftime.

“I have some really good advice for him,” Brey said. “Some things tipped over in the locker room, but we picked him back up. I challenged him. I was disappointed in him, as well as he has played. He’s one tough dude and he reacted like I thought he would.

“You’re not going to keep him down. He has a great toughness and a great will. Him running that guy down and stealing it from him in transition – all a sudden a light bulb went on and he finished the game like a man.”

As the Irish move on in league play, Brey will look to continue to build his teams mental toughness and defensive presence for March.  

“Our belief and mental toughness is as good as anybody in the league,” said Brey. “There is a great will to win. We can dig in and get defensive stops against good teams at key times. I don’t think we have been able to do that enough annually in my program and I am excited about that.”
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