The Notre Dame Fighting Irish returned to action Wednesday night after a nine day Christmas break, taking down the Saint Peter’s Peacocks 63-55.
Notre Dame remained in the AP Top 25 in their first game back , checking in at #24.
The (5-7) Peacocks were coming off a win against the St Francis (BKN) Terriers after a three game losing streak that included a loss to the Maryland Terrapins by only 10 points.
Notre Dame was coming off a win as well, taking down the Colgate Raiders before a surprise visit from Matt Farrell’s brother Bo stole the spotlight, as the military solider surprised his younger brother heading into the holiday season.
While some time away from the program was needed as noted by head coach Mike Brey, the Irish squad could not afford to take the Peacocks lightly.
A close game that consisted of long offensive possessions, the Irish were neck in neck with the Peacocks until a dunk by Martinas Geben put the Irish up by 12 points followed by a timeout by Saint Peter’s head coach.
Following the timeout, VJ Beachem would make a lay up to put the Irish up 14 points, their largest lead of the half.
The Irish shot 56.5% from the field and went 4-9 from beyond the arc heading into halftime leading 33-23.
Notre Dame opened the second half with back to back three pointers, sparking a quick time out by the Peacocks. The Irish would lead by as much as 18 points until the Peacocks started to chip away.
With five minutes left in the game, Saint Peter’s Nick Griffin would hit a three pointer to reduce the deficit to nine points.
However the Irish would hold onto their lead and close the game out, winning 63-55 and improving to 11-2 on the season before conference play begins.
The Irish did not shoot as well as they did in the first half, shooting 42.3% and 20% (2-10) from three point range.
It was also not a great night from the charity stripe by the Irish, as they went 9-13 (69.2%). Despite this performance, Notre Dame still remains #1 in the country in free throw percentage.
Head Coach Mike Brey had this to say following the eight point victory:
“One of the reason we scheduled them is it’s very Virginia like on both ends of the floor; long grinding possessions offensively and really jamming it in on D and they are hard to play against because you are guarding for 25 seconds every possession”.
VJ Beachem led the Irish in scoring with 18 points, shooting 40% from the field and grabbing five boards.
Bonzie Colson was two away from a double-double, recording 10 points and eight rebounds, while Steve Vasturia shot 66% from the field and 50% from beyond the arc, recording 11 points.
Every player has their quiet nights and thankfully Matt Farrell experienced one before conference play started. The rising junior only recording six points but dished out four assists.
Rex Pflueger led the Irish bench with six points, shooting 60% from the field.
Notre Dame’s non-conference schedule has come to an end and will start their ACC play on New Years Eve as they take on the (11-2) Pittsburgh Panthers at 2 PM EST in Pittsburgh.
The Panthers are heading into ACC play similar to the Irish at 11-2, with their only two losses coming against the SMU Mustangs and the Duquesne Dukes.
Pittsburgh is led by senior forward Michael Young, who is averaging 22.2 points per game, shooting 52.7% from the field and 7.9 rebounds per game.
Notre Dame has lost the last three meetings between Panthers, losing by only four points in the last two match ups.
A confident coach Brey stated:
“I’m excited to go through this gauntlet with them because I think their going to be able to handle the hard stuff and the knocks pretty well”.
– R. Scarfone