Rapid Reaction: Irish Gut Out Road Win at Miami

In a game that was often difficult on the eyes, Notre Dame again made the critical plays in the closing minutes as the Irish finished the game on a 10-1 in the final 2:46 to escape Coral Gables with a 67-62 victory over Miami.

With the win, the Irish move to 4-0 in conference play for the first time in program history. The victory also snapped Miami’s 21-game home winning streak.

With the exception of the first five minutes of the second half, Notre Dame struggled to find a rhythm on the offensive end. The length of Miami bothered ND throughout the game as the Hurricanes had a plethora of deflections and a season-high 12 blocks.

The Irish dominated most of the second half until Miami found a spark that propelled them to a 18-7 run and a four-point lead.

It was then, like it has been in the previous four games, where Steve Vasturia and Matt Farrell made the clutch plays and asserted themselves as the unquestioned leaders of this team.

Steve Vasturia vs. Miami

In our preview article, we mentioned that junior and senior leadership had to shine if the Irish were to win this game and Farrell and Vasturia’s play down the stretch only further illustrate that point.

Notre Dame was not clicking on all cylinders Thursday, but good teams find a way to win when they are not at their best.

Thoughts:

– Bonzie Colson has played at an unbelievable level thus far and every player has an off game, but you have to wonder if his performance tonight could be a sign of things to come as the Irish take on bigger and more talented front lines.

– Although Colson struggled to score, he made up for it on the glass. The junior led the Irish with 11 rebounds, nine of which came on the defensive end. It is also an indication as to how good Colson has been and how high of a standard he has set when eight points and 11 rebounds is considered an “off game.”

– Farrell struggled in the first half against Miami like he did Saturday vs. Clemson. As he turned the ball over and put up ill-advised shots I started to wonder if the the high minutes were starting to catch up with him. Man, was I wrong. Like most of the Irish, his shot wasn’t falling, but his ability to see the floor and find the open man was incredible.

– It’s hard watch Farrell’s mannerisms on the court and not be reminded on Ben Hansbrough. Their playmaking ability and will to win is often the difference tight games.

– Like he has throughout his career, Austin Torres gives the spark the Irish needed off the bench. Midway through the second half, Torres was tied with V.J. Beachem for the team-lead in scoring with eight points. Now, that could be a testament to ND’s poor shooting, but the point is that Torres is always willing to do the dirty work and gets the most out of his limited minutes.

– Gonna take the low road here and bitch about the officiating briefly. Miami’s Davon Reed is a good player, but I swear he walked and pushed off every time he drove to the basket and it was never called.

– ND’s defense was again the difference in a winning performance. After getting beat off the dribble early in the first half, Brey switched to zone and immediately quelled Miami’s aggressive nature on offensive.

– The Irish held Miami without a basket for a combined 10:03 stretch between the first and second halves.

– Notre Dame again held strong in the final minutes as the Irish did not allow a field goal in the final 2:46.

– In the final four minutes of each of the first four conference games, the Irish have outscored their opponents 36-7. (h/t @NDmbbSID)

– The Irish will be undersized in most of their remaining games and I commend them fearlessly attacking the basket, but give me a few pump fakes to keep the defense honest.

– Contrary to Rick Pitino’s statement that “Notre Dame gets favorable scheduling,” the Irish are in the midst of one of the toughest stretches of any ACC team. ND has a quick turnaround Saturday as they take on Virginia Tech Saturday afternoon before taking on Florida State Wednesday.

– In our preview article, we said that a 2-1 mark on this road trip would be a huge victory, but 1-2 was more realistic. Now, if they are able to steal one of the next two contests, the Irish will assert themselves as a force in the ACC.

– I’d be lying if I said I was optimistic about Notre Dame’s chances Saturday. Thursday night’s game was physically and emotionally taxing and I expect the Irish to feel some of those effects Saturday. If, however, ND leave Blacksburg with a win, this team could be on the verge of something very special.

Stay tuned to The Otter Room Friday for a complete preview of the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech matchup.

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