On a busy night in South Bend, the Notre Dame basketball team began the evening by unfurling their first ever conference championship banner. As Mike Brey has asked his team (and their fans), the Irish quickly turned the page and set about dispatching the Red Flash from Saint Francis (of Pennsylvania this time).
Even the ESPN3 announcers called this a "money game" and the result was never really in doubt as Notre Dame took a 19-15 lead after a Matt Farrell three point basket near the halfway point of the first half. From there, the Irish built and maintained a very comfortable working margin for the final 30 minutes of the contest.
This makes it pretty easy to see why there was a comfortable margin of victory. Shooting 12 percentage points better than your opponent while turning it over less and dominating the offensive glass to get up 16 additional FG attempts is a winning combination, even when you're fouling a little too frequently.
- Demetrius Jackson is a joy to watch play basketball. He sets an incredible defensive tone, and his release on his shot is downright artistic. I thought DJ got a little loose with the ball a few times, but a lot of that was trying to over-facilitate. It was an impressive 27 point night on 10-14 shooting for the junior PG.
- We should withhold judgement until ND faces a more prominent college offense, which they won't until Indiana, but the overall defensive energy on this team looks really good. With DJ and Steve Vasturia leading the way, there's a bounce to Notre Dame's step on the defensive end and excellent anticipation. V.J. Beachem is understanding how to use his prodigious athleticism on the defensive end and looked great rebounding the ball.
- Speaking of defense, there was a hint of 2-3 played in the first half with mostly starters. One possession, VJ skied for an easy rebound while the top 2 in the configuration sprinted up court. VJ pushed the ball and the Irish were attacking quickly. For fans of last year's lightning-strike attacks, this could be fun to watch.
- One last defensive note: While he struggled a little in spots, Martinas Geben did a great job hedging vs. the screen-and-roll every time he saw it. His energy to come out and re-route the ball handler was excellent. It was clear Brey was asking the bigs to push the ball handler away with energy and Geben did it perfectly.
- Matt Ryan has never seen a shot he doesn't like. You could play a drinking game and take a shot for every 2 pointer he attempts this year. You'll stay sober.
- If you were wondering if Steve Vasturia could pick up where he left off last year, have no fear. Stevie Onions looked great. His shooting stroke looks confident and he was excellent off the bounce and finishing at the rim.
- Ditto for Zach Auguste. He was 6-12 from the floor and pulled down 14 boards (10 defensive) with zero personal fouls. You're going to need a very good post defender to compete with Auguste this year.
- Bonzie Colson, however, had a bit of a struggle. He clanged his first 3FG attempt, but it was a good look and rattled out. He found himself on the wrong side of the new officiating emphasis more than a few times, and picked up 1-2 cheapies that drew the ire of his head coach and limited Big Baby to 15 minutes of action.
- Watching the game real-time, I was getting ready to write up some concern about FT shooting. Honestly, it would have been typical Irish-fan post-victory nit-picking. In the end, they went 19-25 (76%) from the line for the night. That's respectable, although it was driven somewhat by the bench going 10-10 and the starters only 9-15 (60%).
- If you don't like whistles, it might be a good winter to take up a new hobby for a while. They're going to clean up play and it shows. There were 42 personal fouls whistled on the night.
- The two Matt's are going to get first crack at "main guy" status this season. They were the only two reserves to get double-digit minutes on the night. Both look comfortable and at-home with the starters. When DJ and Farrell were in together, Farrell was the primary ball handler, presumably to give Jackson, who played 34 minutes, a blow.
- Elijah Burns was on the bench in street clothes. A tweet exchange with Tom Noie indicated that Burns might be designated for the 5-year plan. We'll update this post if something comes up in the press conference coverage after the game. [EDIT: Brey confirmed in his post-game remarks that Burns will redshirt this season.]
- Shout out to Murtaugh on uni-watch: For my tastes, too many guys wearing too many different models and colors of UA shoes. DJ and VJ wear the Curry Two in the "Iron" color way, while it looks like Vasturia wears the Curry One in black. Auguste and a few guys wear what looks like an unreleased version of the Curry One low in navy blue. Farrell and Ryan looked to have on an older navy/white Clutchfit low color way. Bonzie had the old Clutchfit Drive in that awesome green color way from last year, and I think Geben had the super-high Clutchfit Highlight in white on. St. Francis is also a UA school and looked much better in a consistent set of guys in red Curry One low's and a few all red Curry Two's (or Clutchfit Drive 2's) thrown in. I'm all for guys playing in the shoes they want, but UA could hook us up with a consistent look.