The Irish started the game very slowly on offense, shooting just 41% from the field and 20% from 3-point range in the first half. Notre Dame’s offense was largely held in check by the experienced and physical Wichita State defense, as only BONZIE COLSON (8 points, 5 rebounds) and Matt Farrell (7 points) were able to do anything of note against the Shockers early on.
TJ Gibbs was noticeably absent in the first half, taking only one shot and scoring 0 points just 24 hours after posting a career-high 26 points against LSU the previous night.
Meanwhile, Wichita State scorched the nets thanks to some fantastic shooting and some poor ND defense, as the Shockers shot 50% from the field and 46% from 3-point range in the first half. Conner Frankamp led the way with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, while all 8 other Shockers players who saw time in the first half scored at least 2 points. Wichita State led 37-23 at the intermission.
In the second half, Notre Dame slowly chipped away at the Wichita State lead, but at the under-12 timeout the Irish were still down by 10 and struggling to score or string together multiple stops in a row.
Notre Dame was able to chip away at the deficit more over the next few minutes, though, cutting the Wichita lead to 5 multiple times but failing to make it any closer until the final 5 minutes of the game.
As the time remaining dwindled, the Irish began making big stops on defense and slowly lessened the deficit more, cutting it to 62-61 with 3:50 left after a pair of Rex Pflueger free throws capped an 8-0 ND run.
After a couple empty ND possessions to take the lead and Wichita extending their lead to 3, BONZIE COLSON came back down and hit a mid-range jumper to make it 64-63 with 53 seconds remaining.
A couple possessions later, after a badly missed three pointer by COLSON attempting to tie it with the Irish down 66-63, Matt Farrell made an incredible steal near the baseline on the Wichita State inbounds and dished it to COLSON for a bucket to cut the deficit to 2.
After a missed Shockers free throw, Farrell took the ball hard to the hoop but got rejected. Rex Pflueger forced a HUGE jump ball on the rebound, though, and ND retained possession with 3.3 seconds remaining, down 66-65. This hustle play by Pflueger, along with Farrell’s steal and dish seconds before, were the plays of the game, without question.
Mike Brey proceeded to draw up a beautiful inbounds play that got Martinas Geben an open dunk attempt, but a Wichita foul forced Geben to the line.
“The Bird Whisperer” made the first shot on a dramatic bounce around the rim, then calmly swished the second to take the 67-66 lead for Notre Dame.
With 2 seconds left, Wichita got it to Landry Shamet at mid-court, but Pflueger and Gibbs combined to knock the ball away and Pflueger came up with the game-clinching steal as time expired.
The Irish finished the game shooting 49% from the field and 33% from deep, while Wichita shot 46% and 35%, respectively. Notre Dame outscored the Shockers 44-29 in the second half.
The Irish were led by BONZIE COLSON, who scored 25 points and snared 11 rebounds. Matt Farrell added 15 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 assists, and the hero of the day, Martinas Geben, had 12 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and made 100% of the super-high-stress free throws he took in the final seconds of the game.
The Shockers’ leading scorer was Zach Brown, who had 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep. Landry Shamet had 10 points and 7 assists, Conner Frankamp added 12 points (0 in the 2nd half) and 5 assists, and Shaquille Morris scored 8.
The Irish win their Thanksgiving week tournament for the second year in a row, after having won the Legends Classic in Brooklyn in 2016. This is the first time the Irish have won the Maui Invitational, and ND improves to 6-0 on the season with the victory, while Wichita loses its first of the year, now 4-1.
The Irish’s next game will be next Thursday, 11/30, at the #4 Michigan State Spartans.