RECAP: Fighting Irish Fall to Top-Ranked Villanova; Suffer First Loss of the Season

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{Source: Notre Dame Athletics)

The undefeated streak has come to an end for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, as they suffered their first loss of the 2016-17 season Saturday afternoon to the defending national champions, the Villanova Wildcats.

A very highly anticipated game that featured two of the last few remaining undefeated teams in the country, looking to make early statements before conference play starts.

During his press conference leading up to Saturday’s matchup, Irish Head Coach Mike Brey talked about the challenge at hand and what he wants to see out of his Irish squad.

“I think ‘Nova has a great mental and physical toughness, you know you just watch what they did down at Purdueto win that game down there against a heck of a team in a tough atmosphere, there’s where, we’re going to have to be able to match that, I’m interested to see if we are able to match that”.

In the days leading up to the game, Brey reportedly took a shot at the Duke Blue Devils and the media for the endless hype of Duke’s team and their injured freshman super star, while his team remains in the shadows regardless of their impressive start.

The former assistant of Coach Mike Krzyzewski spoke about how the narrative should be around two experienced teams facing each other that have had tremendous starts to the season rather than whether a freshman will come back from injury before or after the New Year.

It is evident that regardless how well the Irish are doing, they will always have a chip on their shoulder, especially coming into Saturday’s game taking on the defending national champions.

Notre Dame came out red hot in the opening half, which begun with a feed down low to Martinas Geben, who would get the hoop and the harm, putting the Irish up by three 20 seconds into the game.

The Irish were hitting their shots, particularly point guard Matt Farrell, whose made three pointer sparked a 9-3 run by the Irish, making the score 17-9.

Notre Dame led as much as 11 in the first half thanks to back to back lay-ups scored by both Matt Farrell and Steve Vasturia.

However, the Wildcats were done being pushed around, as they chipped away at the lead and limited Notre Dame to four points in the final two and a half minutes of the half. The Irish would go into the locker room up only 41-36.

The Irish opened the second half with a Steve Vasturia three pointer as they tried to re-gain the same momentum as they had in the first half.

Notre Dame would lead as much as nine in the second half before Villanova would wake up. The Wildcats would take their first lead of the game with nine minutes left, as they took advantage of Notre Dame’s shooting struggles in the second half.

With the score going back and forth, the Wildcats eventually would pull away with the lead and win the game 74-66, handing Notre Dame their first loss of the season.

Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell led the Irish in scoring, each recording 18 points and two steals, with Farrell dishing out six assists and Vasturia recording three.

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{Source: Notre Dame Athletics)

Bonzie Colson’s double-double streak came to an end Saturday afternoon. Nevertheless, he scored 11 points and grabbed eight boards while also stealing two balls.

VJ Beachem struggled in the loss to Villanova, scoring only four points, shooting 2-11 from the field and 0-5 from 3-point range. Beachem recorded five rebounds, one assist and one block.

Freshman Temple Gibbs and Sophomore Rex Pflueger were the only players on the Irish bench who scored, recording five points each.

Once again, The Irish were flawless from the free throw line, going 6-6.

The Fighting Irish will have to dust themselves off and learn from this loss before next Saturday when they will take on the 15th ranked Purdue Boilermakers in the Crossroads Classic.

Purdue currently sits at 8-2 on the season, with their only losses coming against Villanova by three points and the Louisville Cardinals by seven.

The Crossroads Classic featuring the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Purdue Boilermakers will take place at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday December 17th at 2 PM ET and will air on ESPN 2

– R. Scarfone