MAUI, HI – The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have been crowned the 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational champions, after beating the Wichita State Shockers, 67-66, coming back from a 16-point deficit to take home the title.
The last time these two programs faced each other was in 2015 during the regional semi-final of the NCAA Tournament in which the Irish came out victorious, beating the Shockers in a close one, 81-70.
It was a game that the college basketball world wanted and expected to see on the last day of the tournament: #13 Notre Dame vs #6 Wichita State; two teams that always seem to fly under the radar, but are among the best in the country.
After a week full of basketball games in Maui, this one certainly didn’t disappoint.
After rolling the LSU Tigers behind a stellar shooting performance that saw the Irish shoot over 50% from the field, Notre Dame didn’t get to a hot start in their first half against the Shockers.
Besides leading 4-2, one minute and 31 seconds into the game, the Irish would not lead again for the rest of the game until the final seconds on Wednesday.
Led by Conner Frankamp, who had 12 of the Wichita State’s 37 points in the first half, the Shockers came out of the locker room showing why they are a top 10 team in the country.
Shooting 50% from the field, 45% from three point range and holding the Irish to eight points over the first 12 minutes of the first half, everything was clicking for the Shockers.
Notre Dame only went one for five from three point range (20%), and committed six turnovers to Wichita’s three.
Wichita State led by as much as 16 points before going to the locker room with a 14-point lead, ready to put the Irish away in the second half. But in the past, Notre Dame has been known for second half comebacks.
This game wasn’t any different.
Notre Dame chipped away at the league behind a better shooting performance and eventually cut the lead to one after an 8-0 run, highlighted by three pointers from T.J. Gibbs and Bonzie Colson
But Wichita State’s Landry Shamet made his presence known after a quiet performance in the first half, answering Notre Dame’s scoring, trying to hang on to the lead in the final minutes of the game.
Shamet gave his team a three point lead with 34 seconds left, putting the pressure on Notre Dame to respond. All hoped seemed to be lost when Bonzie Colson missed the tying three pointer, and possession went to Wichita State.
But Matt Farrell showed his quickness and grit, picking Frankamp’s pocket and dishing an assist to Colson, who put the Irish within one.
Now, there was a chance.
The Shockers couldn’t make their free throws to pad their one -point lead and ultimately gave Notre Dame one more chance. Actually make that two chances. While Farrell’s winning shot was blocked out of bounds, Notre Dame had one last opportunity to draw up one more play.
Mike Brey drew up a beautiful double screen to Martinas Geben that left him wide open in the lane, forcing Wichita State to quickly foul to prevent the Lithuanian from scoring.
Two clutch free throws later, Notre Dame led for the first time since their 4-2 lead earlier in the game. While Rex Pflueger had a quiet night with only four points, his steal that would come after Geben’s free throws would seal the deal for the Irish.
The Fighting Irish were crowned the 2017 Maui Jim Maui Invitational Tournament Champions, taking down the sixth-ranked team in the nation, 67-66, in what felt like a classic NCAA tournament game.
Bonzie Colson continued to demonstrate why he is one of the best players in the nation, consistently producing big numbers in games against the nation’s best teams. The senior dropped 25 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, while recording two blocks and two steals.
Matt Farrell added 15 points, four boards, four assists and three steals while T.J. Gibbs added seven points and four assists.
Martinas Geben continued to display more offensive production, adding 12 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two blocks.
Notre Dame will fly back to South Bend and take some time off before hitting the road once again to East Lansing to take on the fourth-ranked Michigan State Spartans, who are led by star sophomore forward, Miles Bridges, in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Tip off is set for 7:00 PM EST on Thursday November 30th, 2017, broadcasting live on ESPN.
Be sure to catch next week’s episode of the CCR Podcast, where we break down what is likely going to be a top 10 match-up in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
– R. Scarfone