MAUI, HI – After opening their 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament with a win over Division II’s Chaminade, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish took on the LSU Tigers, demolishing them 92-53 in the semi-finals.
The winner of this game would go on to play the sixth-ranked Wichita State Shockers in the finals, who punched their ticket earlier Tuesday with a win over the Marquette Golden Eagles, 80-66.
This was only the second-ever meeting between the Fighting Irish and the Tigers, with LSU claiming a victory back in 1990 in front of a then-record breaking crowd of over 68,000, led by NBA Hall of Famer, Shaquille O’Neal.
Notre Dame made sure this game had a different result, and boy did it ever.
It was not a great night for LSU, as the trouble started 30 seconds into the game. Guard Brandon Sampson went down with an apparent injury after a pair of offensive rebounds for the Tigers on their opening offensive possession.
He did not return the rest of the game, forcing LSU to play without some veteran leadership.
T.J. Gibbs opened the scoring with a three pointer after going cold in Notre Dame’s win over Chaminade. Notre Dame went 3-3 from the three point line to start the game, forcing the Tigers to tighten up their defense.
But Notre Dame continued to play fast, as Matt Farrell got the Irish rolling with a 15-2 run, sending some nice passes down low to Martinas Geben, including one through the legs of Duop Reath of LSU. The Tigers tried to respond, but could not hit anything from the field, missing eight of their last nine shots.
LSU ended the run, but played sloppy and turned the ball over on several occasions, fueled Notre Dame’s quick fast break offense. It wasn’t until Farrell came out for a breather that LSU finally connected with some shots.
Reath stepped up for the Tigers in the first half, scoring 14 of their total 24 points, going 5-for-7 from the field in the process and blocking three shots.
Notre Dame’s defense impressed against a long and athletic Tigers’ team, stealing the ball six times and blocking two shots in the opening half. The Irish were able to find a way to stop LSU’s top scorer, Tremont Waters, who struggled from the field, going 0-3 and turning the ball over three times in the first half.
The Fighting Irish went into the locker room leading 40-24, behind strong performances by Gibbs’ (12 points, three assists), Farrell (eight points, five assists) and Bonzie Colson (eight points, six rebounds and four steals).
As the second half got underway, Notre Dame did not miss a beat from their first half performance. The Irish had quick ball movement and found good shot options, rather than force it like LSU did, who were desperately trying to find a spark on offense.
Gibbs built off of his 12 points in the first half, dropping 14 more to finish the night with 26 points, four assists and three boards.
LSU could not get anything going, losing to Notre Dame, 92-53, in what was a surprisingly lopsided performance, given how good the Tigers looked against the Michigan Wolverines.
Matt Farrell recorded 17 points and seven assists while Bonzie Colson dropped yet another double-double, with 12 points, 11 rebounds and five steals.
Martinas Geben got in double digit figures, scoring 10 points and grabbing four rebounds.
Coming off the bench, John Mooney had a nice night, recording nine points and six boards, proving himself to be a great compliment to Colson and Geben.
Notre Dame has punched their ticket to the championship game and will take on sixth-ranked Wichita State in a final that was expected and desired by the college basketball world.
Tip off is set for November 22nd at 10:30 PM EST, broadcasting live on ESPN 2.
This will be a close game. I can assure you that.
– R. Scarfone