Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Brey Notebook: Boston College

March 1, 2017

Notre Dame started ACC play fast, went through losing five of six games and then knocked off Boston College 82-66 on Wednesday night for a sixth straight win in league play. The Irish have had their ups and downs in conference play, but now the stage is set for a big matchup with Louisville on Saturday with an outside chance to share the ACC title if North Carolina loses to Duke on Saturday night.

Head coach Mike Brey knew after a February 4th loss against North Carolina his team was on the verge of slipping as they said 6-5 in the ACC.

“One of the things I talked to them about after we got off the bus after the North Carolina game was about fighting the ‘woe is me,'” said Brey. “I used the theme of being a warrior. I wanted them to embrace how hard this league is. This league is crazy.

“We had our butts kicked for two weeks. I told them how many of their buddies wanted to play in this league because everyone is watching this league.”

After six straight wins since the loss against the Tar Heels, Brey looks back at the 5-0 start to conference play, and that allowed the Irish to be in the position they are in heading into Saturday’s game.

“You win six in a row in this league this year, and we won five in a row out of the gate,” stated Brey. “You just feel good about it, and you’re blessed. I just remember we were 5-0 in the league by the skin of our teeth and we were just stealing wins.

“I knew it was coming. I knew there would be a day of reckoning, but you could absorb when you have gone 5-0 to start the league. Going 5-0 set the table for us to take the punches and not panic.”

As the Irish head to Louisville on Saturday, Brey wants one thing on their mind.

“I told them I didn’t want anyone talking about a double-bye,” said Brey. “I want us thinking about trying to share the regular season championship. If we win on Saturday and we’ll root for the Blue Devils on Saturday night, and we’ll see where we stand.

“Everyone in the league has taken it except Carolina. Everyone has had it put on them. I never doubted we could be back in form. We’re healthy, and I think we have good energy heading to this postseason.”

Brey knows Louisville is a different team than when the Irish knocked them off 77-70 the first week of January. The Cardinals play a little more aggressive at home, and Brey knows the battle of the boards will be key on Saturday afternoon.

“They press a little bit more and pressure you maybe a little bit more down there,” explained Brey. “Taking care of the ball and now here we face one of these teams that can pound us on the backboard when we’re playing small. Can we hold our own?

“We were able to hold our own here on the backboard. If we’re playing smaller longer, can we not get beat up on the backboard? I think we’re hard to guard if they are playing two big guys, so you’re trying to balance what’s being effective for us.”

Senior forward VJ Beachem has rebounded from struggling early in ACC play and carried the Irish home in his last game at Purcell Pavilion with 22 points. Brey knows Beachem will need to have big games going forward to have a deep run in March.

“He’s in a great rhythm,” Brey stated. “He has been moving great. Certainly, going smaller helped him, and now he is feeling really good about himself. The Big Four are going to have to be really good to play deep in either tournament.”

Another player that Brey will need some significant minutes from in March is center Martinas Geben. The junior big man saw his playing time decrease with the move to a smaller lineup, but Brey knows Geben could give them big minutes in the coming weeks.

“I think the biggest thing was getting Martinas Geben back in a flow,” said Brey. “I just think we are going to need him. We’re going to need more hands on deck come the postseason. He didn’t play at all two games in a row. I thought and talked to him the last couple days about being ready.

“That big body helps us. It screens and it leans on big guys and we’re not opposed to playing two bigs at times. We did that a little more tonight.” 
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