It could have been much easier, but the Fighting Irish just seem to be more comfortable playing in tight games that come down to the last minute. Steve Vasturia and the Irish were unconscious from the floor in the first half, but allowed the Hokies to storm back and give the Irish a serious scare on the road. In the end, Mike Brey’s squad regrouped and did what they always seem to do: make the big stop when it counts and come away with a win. With Florida State’s loss to North Carolina, the Irish now stand alone atop the ACC as the only remaining undefeated team in conference play. Here is what we learned from the Irish victory.
No lead is safe in the ACC
The Irish led by as many as 19 in this game, after rattling off 17 straight points in the first half on incredible shooting. The Hokies fought back to cut the deficit to eight by the halftime horn, and slimmed the Irish lead to as much as five early in the second half before the Irish went on another run to inflate their lead to 13. However, the Hokies battled back again to take the lead late in the second half, which oddly enough is right where the Irish seem to want to be late in games. The Irish were fortunate enough to pull out the victory despite squandering a large lead, but they may not be as lucky against other top tier teams in the conference.
The future of the Irish backcourt is very bright
This was clearly the best performance of freshman T.J. Gibbs’ young college career, scoring 13 points on 4-5 shooting. Gibbs showed incredible driving ability that will be sorely needed when Matt Farrell departs. Gibbs’ young counterpart Rex Pflueger scored seven points of his own while shooting 2-4 from long distance. Pflueger, a sophomore and former ESPN Top 100 recruit, is a lockdown defender and a strong shooter who will help form a solid duo with Gibbs for the Irish in years to come.
Matt Farrell may be minoring in sorcery
As we mentioned earlier, the Irish always seem to come up with the big stop when the chips are down, but Farrell’s takeaway in the final minute of regulation on Saturday topped them all. Hokies sophomore Justin Robinson was jogging up the court as the ball rolled at his feet, waiting as long as possible before scooping the ball up and starting the game clock. Farrell, glancing around and making hand gestures as if to orchestrate defensive positioning, quickly dove to the ground to steal the ball before an unsuspecting Robinson could grab it. It was an incredible move that sealed the game, and the unselfish Farrell made the smart pass to Gibbs when going up for the layup on the other end of the floor instead of keeping the moment just for himself. It was Farrell’s third steal of the game, and the Irish now rank in the top five in the ACC in steals. Seriously, if you haven’t seen this act of grand theft, you’re robbing yourself (no pun intended).