Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Mike Brey Not Rushing Matt Farrell Back

January 12, 2018
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Mike Brey might have the tag of ‘Loosest Coach in America,” but the Notre Dame head coach has earned his paycheck the first 11 days of January. 

The Irish are down forward Bonzie Colson and point guard Matt Farrell, but Brey’s squad currently sits 3-1 in ACC play with a 13-4 record overall. 

Notre Dame will host No. 20 North Carolina (13-4, 2-2) on Saturday evening and the Irish will likely be without Farrell as he recovers from an ankle injury. 

“He’s a lot better, but I think it’s really a longshot that he goes on Saturday,” Brey stated on Thursday. “Tuesday is more realistic, but man, I don’t even want to push that.” 

With the Irish offense struggling, Brey would love nothing more than to have his senior point guard back in the lineup, but with the 3-1 start in league play, there just isn’t a rush to get him back on the floor before he’s absolutely ready. 

“It’s a two-way street,” explained Brey. “You listen to him, and you listen to your trainer and doctor. Matt’s thing is he’s ready, and I’ll have to temper that because there is a big picture here. We’re not in a bad position now. If we were 1-3 in the league, maybe it’d be a different story. 

“I look at it as if we can get him back next week, it’d be great. I love the fact we play on the 20th and then we have our bye week. That week will be important for him to rehab and get into a rhythm again. Hopefully, by the 27th, he’s close to 100 percent.”  

Speaking of scoring, Notre Dame shot 30.4 percent from the field and 23.8 percent from three against Syracuse and 35.6 percent and 22.2 percent from downtown in Wednesday’s loss at Georgia Tech. 

“We had open looks in both of the last two games in the first half, and we really struggled offensively,” said Brey. “We’re going to have to make some of those to win. We were fortunate enough to somehow figure it out and play good enough defense on Saturday, but on Wednesday, you’re scoring in the 50s, you’re going to be in a close game or going to get blown out. 

“Last time we played here without both of them for most of the game, we were better offensively. Hopefully, we can get to scoring a little better back at home.” 

Notre Dame will need to find some offense over the last half of January as the schedule gets significantly tougher. After North Carolina, the Irish will host Louisville, travel to No. 19 Clemson, host Virginia Tech and then head to No. 7 Duke to end the month.  

“I like our math right now,” Brey said of the RPI. “LSU is working for us and playing well. That’s the great thing about playing in this league. The bad news is you’re in the ACC because it’s so competitive and hard. The good news about being in the ACC is you have shots at resume wins. You don’t have to get them all, but if you get the right number of them, you can be in there. 

“It’s a quick turnaround with Louisville. Our big thing is we can’t do much after games because we have to get rest and recover. Those eight guys are logging minutes.”

One player that can help on the offensive end is junior Rex Pflueger, who was battling sickness on Wednesday and might explain his performance on the offensive end. Pflueger played 35 minutes and went 0-for-8 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free throw line. 

“He has an ear thing,” stated Brey. “He threw up at halftime, and we were hanging on. I told him ‘Stay in bed until Saturday at six. You don’t need to practice.’”

One bright spot of Wednesday’s loss was the development of forward John Mooney. The 6-foot-9 sophomore continues to expand his game and showing up on the road was a positive building block. 

“It was a big step for John on Wednesday,” Brey explained. “That atmosphere – he gives us 11 and eight. Points are tough for us to get and he can score for us. He can rebound. He needs to improve his defense and his post defense.

“He needs to be out there because he’s scoring and we’re having a hard time scoring.” 

Another major positive on Wednesday was Martinas Geben. The senior center is quietly putting together a big-time season and scored as career-high 16 points on 8-for-13 shooting to go with nine rebounds against Georgia Tech.  

“I told him last night that he’s playing as good as any big guy in our league,” said Brey. “I’m so proud of him stepping forward and doing what he’s doing. I couldn’t ask any more out of him. 

“I’m really proud of Martin Geben. He has continually stepped up when we needed him too. We needed more, and he’s delivered.” 

While Brey feels like he can’t ask more out of Geben, he will ask for more. 

“One of the things we did a little more on Wednesday was throw it into him and have him look for his offense,” Brey said. “He has got to look to take shots for us more. He shot a few from the foul line, post moves, instead of kicking it back out, he may have to just go. We told him to go ahead and make a move. If he gets fouled, he’s also automatic from the foul line.” 

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