Irish Look Ready To Roll Into Postseason
On January 18th, Notre Dame dropped its first conference game on the road in Tallahassee against Florida State in a game it could have won.
The Irish knocked down 15 of 21 three-point attempts, but were done in by a season-high 17 turnovers.
Little did they know they were about to go lose four of their next five ACC games in a slump that would threaten a 16-2 start to the season.
During the losing streak, the Irish were taken out of their rhythm and saw their field goal percentage go down as a result. Notre Dame failed to crack 45 percent from the field and predictably couldn't find any offense in four straight losses to Virginia, Georgia Tech, Duke and North Carolina.
The Irish averaged just 66 points per game while giving up 75. The turnovers were way up and their free throw percentage was way down – 71 percent, down from their season average of 81.5 – two uncharacteristic traits of a team that typically excels in those areas.
Fast forward to February 26th, and the Irish have turned things back around just as quickly and a 64-60 win over Georgia Tech, their fifth straight ACC victory.
Since the losing streak three weeks ago, Mike Brey’s boys have undergone some changes offensively and it's helped them return to the level of play they're used to.
One of the biggest adjustments has been taking Martinas Geben out of the starting lineup and deciding to go small.
Austin Torres, Rex Pflueger and T.J. Gibbs have each received starts and the changes have helped the Irish regain some of the offensive momentum they had when they got off to that 5-0 ACC start in mid-January. By going small, the Irish have been able to space the floor and keep opposing defenses off balance.
Bonzie Colson has obviously been a major reason for the offensive resurgence, averaging 22.6 points per game during Notre Dame's current five-game winning streak. In perhaps his best game of the season on February 11th against Florida State, Colson scored a career-high 33 points and totaled 13 rebounds.
“He's playing as well as anyone in the country and in our league,” Brey said after Sunday's win. “I think he knew some of our perimeter guys weren't going offensively. He was smart enough to know it was hard to score…around the paint so he shot some jumpers and took him outside. He set a great tone for us.”
With some of their swagger back, the Irish look refocused as they enter their final two regular-season games, Wednesday against Boston College and Saturday against Louisville.
With the ACC tournament around the corner, Notre Dame has hit its stride yet again and will look to go into the tournament riding some momentum.
The Irish currently sit tied for second-place with Florida State and Louisville in the ACC standings, in good position to lock up at least one bye in the tournament which starts March 7th.
Five straight wins has this Notre Dame team flying high yet again and it could be at the perfect time.