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Notre Dame vs. North Carolina, Detailed Recap: Michael Brey and His Team Are Angry and Dangerous

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The loss to UNC was a heartbreaker. But now the Irish are PISSED OFF, and that’s bad news for their next few ACC opponents

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

That was a heartbreaking loss.

There’s no other way to describe a team playing without its two best players against a ranked team at home, and being a rimmed-out put-back away from pulling off the upset anyway.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish fell to 13-5 and 3-2 in ACC play last night in a 69-68 roller coaster of a game against the North Carolina Tar Heels.

And we could focus on the Irish’s final 6 minutes coming without a made field goal, or on what most of us would agree were some terrible refereeing decisions down the stretch, or even on TJ Gibbs’ put-back miss being SO close that it actually makes our hearts ache.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Instead, though, I think we need to look at all the positives in this one and the result, which to me is how completely and utterly pissed off the Notre Dame basketball team currently is, and what that means for the next 13 games.

To do so, let’s relive what was a fantastic, thrilling game and talk about all the relentles spirit and phenomenal growth and effort we’re seeing in this young team.

Pregame

I got to Purcell about 35 minutes before game time, and the arena was BUZZIN’. That was at least partially due to Matt Farrell, who’d been out with a sprained ankle for 2.5 games, participating in pregame warmups while wearing uniform shorts. At the time, I remember thinking that even if it meant nothing for the UNC game, it was AWESOME to see that guy back at it, draining jumpers and doing those little behind-the-back and through-the-leg dribbles he loves to do while he idles outside the arc with the ball.

The Tar Heels did their warming up on the other side of the court, tossing down dunks one after the other. I noted that there were some decent dunkers over there, but that none of them could dunk the ball with as much two-handedness or as much ground-shaking power as Martinas Geben, codename The Bird Whisperer.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The video board was showing one of those commercials promoting ND’s academic programs, and I spied my friend/fellow Stanford Griffin/former ping pong nemesis Arnav Dutt talking about nerd things. I SEE YOU ARNAV!!!

When the two teams came back out in full uniform for final warmups, Farrell was in his full uniform as well, making everyone begin to freak out a little bit and ask if maybe, possibly, he was going to play in this one. Farrell had his warmup hoodie on and had the hood up over his head and down over his eyes a bit, making him look like he was trying to be incognito and in the zone and that he was preparing to play. He might actually play in this game!

*Ron Howard Arrested Development voice* He wouldn’t.

As the teams went about their final shoot-arounds, they put up some fun facts on the video board. Austin Torres’ favorite singer is Justin Bieber. DJ Harvey’s favorite actor is Will Smith, and thus unsurprisingly, his favorite TV show is Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. These are some very fun facts, you guys.

The video board then began showing people in the crowd, and the Steve Jobs Mob was in attendance and doing their thing, haunting all of us with their stoic stares and static hand gestures. This was when I came to terms with the fact that I’m going to die someday. Because that day is probably today, Saturday, January 13th, at the weird hands of the Steve Jobs Mob.

Starting lineups were announced on Twitter, and Farrell’s name was absent. Then reports came out that he would only play in an emergency situation.

Welp, so much for that.

BONZIE was shown on the screen and he was ROCKING a floral SSBD (short sleeve button down). I’ll just include one picture here and discuss this no further, as I plan on writing a feature piece on that shirt separately.

It’s beautiful.
Photo taken by my friend Evan of his TV, and sent to me via GroupMe

Other final observations before game festivities began:

  • I spied a Raymond Felton UNC jersey, which at least makes sense. I also spied a Rob Ninkovich Patriots jersey and a Julio Jones Falcons jersey, which make sense sort of, since those teams were playing on Saturday...but you’re attending a Notre Dame basketball game, guys. Try not wearing that garbage.
  • Notre Dame student Teagan Earley absolutely crushed her singing of the national anthem. It was gorgeous.
  • I’m in the press box for this game as opposed to the media seats behind the basket, and I gotta say, I think I prefer this awesome view of the court and the ample room compared to the cramped behind-the-hoop seats. It’s nice up here.

Starters

North Carolina:

#2 Joel Berry II, G, Senior

#32 Luke Maye, F, Sophomore

#24 Kenny Williams, G, Junior

#1 Theo Pinson, F, Senior

#13 Cameron Johnson, G/F, Senior

Notre Dame:

#10 TJ Gibbs, G, Sophomore

#0 Rex Pflueger, G/F, Junior

#3 DJ Harvey, G/F, Freshman

#23 Martinas Geben, F, Senior

#33 John Mooney, F, Sophomore

That ND lineup is the fifth different starting lineup for the Irish in the team’s last 5 games.

After they introduced the Glenn and Stacey Murphy Head Men’s Basketball Coach, Mike Brey (that title is absolutely ridiculous...just call him the head men’s basketball coach, you guys), and after some Cathy Richardson and Dropkick Murphys action, the game got under way.

1st Half

The early going was rough for both teams, as the first two minutes went by with missed shots and turnovers all around. Rex Pflueger, specifically, looked like he was still dealing with the flu. He was sloppy on the offensive side of things.

Finally, Luke Maye hit a nice turnaround jumper over Geben to get things moving. That shot was a harbinger for things to come, as Maye was fantastic for most of the game and the main reason the Tar Heels ended up on top. He’s a very, very good basketball player.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

John Mooney answered Maye’s bucket with a three pointer, getting the crowd going a bit before Maye responded with a deep ball of his own. A play or two later, Theo Pinson showed nice hustle by diving for a ball going out of bounds, but somehow managed to kick a ref in the face while sliding across the ground. It was pretty funny, and knowing some of the calls/no-calls those refs were to make later on, that kick to the face is retroactively very satisfying.

Also great was the student section’s response to the kick, which was to chant “T Him Up!” Well played, guys. Well played.

The next ND possession, fans were treated to potentially the most delightful thing of all-time. Martinas Geben, the son of Artur and Elena Geben, beloved large adult son of Vilnius, Lithuania, attempted a three point shot.

He didn’t just attempt it, though.

Nay, he let loose a feathery, gorgeous deep ball that rattled around the rim and went down, whipping the crowd into a brief frenzy before UNC shut them up with a bucket in response. Nevertheless, I felt in that moment the same feeling that Connor O’Neill felt when G-Baby got that game-winning hit in Hardball:

After a deep 2-point jumper from DJ Harvey, the Irish went into the first media timeout with an 8-7 lead on the #20 team in the country. It should have been clear to all of us at that point that this Mike Brey team was going to fight and claw and stick with the Tar Heels in this one.

During the timeout, I spied my guys from the NDWhiteboard crew and my man Brandon of the Golden Jacket. They brought it tonight, along with the other students, per usual.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

I noticed earlier in the game that the Steve Jobs Mob is very committed to doing their silent nerd stance throughout the entire game, but was also pleased to see them break that spell briefly to clap along with a Let’s Go Irish chant. Gotta support Brey and the boys, first and foremost. They get it.

As the game progressed, we got to see the students boo someone who screamed something at Marty Geben during the backswing of his free throw routine (definitely the reason he missed). Geben made up for the miss, though, swatting a UNC shot on the other end.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After a Luke Maye offensive rebound turned into a Joel Berry II three, the Tar Heels took a 10-9 lead with 14:20 left in the first half.

After some Pflueger free throws took the lead back for ND, Brey subbed in Nikola Djogo, Elijah Burns, and Austin Torres all at once, prompting me to almost have an aneurysm about why Brey was playing two big guys who can’t score at all and a wing with limited experience in big games, all at the same time.

UNC jumped out to a 14-11 lead that they took into the under-12 timeout, but with the help of the Purcell DJ playing “Knuck If You Buck” during that timeout, John Mooney came out and got himself a nice blocked shot on the defensive end. Geben was inspired by the stylings of Crime Mob as well, coming down with a very tough offensive board and drawing a foul to get himself a couple free throws.

With both Berry and Maye on the bench resting, I noted that it was time for ND to take advantage. So, of course, Burns and Torres were reinserted into the game, and just as I made a note about how ugly the offense would be, Burns made a nice turnaround shot to beat the shot clock buzzer and make it just 16-15 North Carolina.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After Pflueger made a fantastic pass to the North Carolina bench and then the Tar Heels got nothing from the gifted ensuing possession, Gibbs had a nice take to the bucket in transition for a layup that gave the Irish a 17-16 lead, causing Purcell to explode as the crowd was dying for a basket and for the Irish to have a lead.

The crowd continued to get rowdier when Djogo drew a foul heading into the under-8 timeout, and assistant coach Rod Balanis was out on the court motioning to the crowd to get on their feet and go nuts. I wanted to, but decided to stay “professional” in my press box seat.

During this timeout, the Notre Dame Pom Squad sauntered out for their first performance of the night. I say “sauntered” here because they had the unmitigated gall to call themselves a Pom Squad but then come out for a dance performance that did not at all include pom poms. They’re just the Notre Dame Squad at that point, you guys. This needs to be corrected.

The “Pom” Squad performance segued perfectly into the first T-Shirt Toss Time of the evening. Per usual, the adults in the crowd were up and waving their arms like idiots. I’m so proud of their consistency.

The two teams continued to trade baskets and leads, with a Gibbs jumper making it 21-20 with just under 6 minutes remaining in the half. After a UNC basket, Pflueger came down and drained a 3 to tie it at 23. UNC answered, but then on the Notre Dame offensive end, Geben got a fantastic, leaping offensive board, and then as he hovered in the air for what seemed like hours, he rocketed the ball back out to a wide open Djogo, who drained a 3 to put the Irish up 26-25. QB Vision from the Bird Whisperer right there, you guys.

The Tar Heels once again answered to silent the crowd, who had all risen to their feet in honor of the Bird Whisperer finally soaring like the birds he speaks to so often.

A Gibbs three brought them right back to their feet, though, as Notre Dame took a 29-27 lead into the under-4 timeout.

During the timeout, they announced Quickchange as the halftime entertainment. My reaction:

After some more back and forth, a few Luke Maye offensive rebounds on one possession led to an open Joel Berry three pointer to push the Tar Heels out to a three point lead, 34-31. Djogo tipped in a missed shot to make it 34-33, but Berry once again somehow found himself wide open from 3 on the other end, burying it to put UNC up 37-33 with 1:30 left in the first half.

Some Gibbs and Geben free throws brought the game to a 37-all tie, but a Cameron Johnson three pointer just before the half gave the Tar Heels a three-point advantage at the intermission.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Halftime Stats

Notre Dame: TJ Gibbs led the way in the first half with 9 points, and Marty G was clearly on track for another great performance with his 8 points and 4 boards. Djogo added 6 points and Pflueger chipped in 5. The team shot 35% from the field, 42% from deep, and made 10-of-12 from the charity stripe.

North Carolina: Luke Maye finished the first half 6-of-9 from the field with 13 points and 9 rebounds, just a board short of a double-double IN THE FIRST HALF. Have I mentioned he is a VERY good player? The rest of the UNC team shot just 8-of-26 in the half, with Berry dropping in 9 points and Johnson scoring 7. The Tar Heels, the #1 rebounding team in the country, were actually out-rebounded 22-21 in the half, and shot 40% from the field and 36% from three-point land.

Halftime Show

Halftime began as it typically does, with Notre Dame presenting its Fan of the Game award. Yesterday, it was given to Pat and Kate Murphy. Pat was apparently an ND student in 1968 and has been an avid fan of the team ever since. Congrats to Pat and Kate on your commemorative basketball!!!!!!

After that brief ceremony, Quickchange came out to perform. For anyone who doesn’t know, Quickchange involves a man and a woman dancing around to music and changing outfits super often and very quickly. That’s it.

I’ll give the act credit for the fact that whatever trick they use to change into new outfits so quickly and dramatically, it’s probably a very high degree of difficulty to pull off and it’s certainly something I cannot do.

With that said, I do not understand the appeal to this act. When I think about great halftime shows, I think about a tiny woman flipping bowls from her foot to her head while riding a unicycle, or a bunch of small children doing cool dribbling tricks, or a dog catching a bunch of frisbees.

What I don’t think of is a middle-aged couple awkwardly dancing around and changing into a bunch of different brightly-colored outfits because they can’t decide what to wear. It’s not interesting to me, plain and simple.

There was a point during yesterday’s performance where the guy kept putting his hands into this hat the woman was holding, and his hands would come out wearing a new color of gloves.

Who the hell cares?

Overall, I will give Quickchange a 5 out of 10. I’d give it much lower if it were just based on how I feel about the act, but I do think it’s pretty impressive how quickly they can pull off the costume changes, so I’ll throw them a bone for that. Otherwise, it’s extremely uninteresting and doesn’t come CLOSE to Red Panda on the 1 to Red Panda scale.

Just before play resumed, the Purcell DJ popped on “All Star” by Smashmouth and I, along with most of the crowd, was absolutely there for it.

2nd Half

The Irish came out ready in the second half, as Notre Dame’s first possession featured a beautiful Gibbs-to-Geben connection for a bucket. DJ Harvey then continued to show sensational effort, drawing an and-one, running down his own missed free throw for the offensive rebound, and then drawing Luke Maye’s third foul early in the half.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After a UNC bucket in transition gave the Tar Heels a 42-41 lead, the game got ugly for a bit, as both teams refused to make shots or even really take care of the ball. Finally, the two teams remembered they need to put the ball INTO the basket, and UNC got a free throw followed by Geben getting a tough rebound and basket to tie it up at 43.

Then, with what I consider to be the offensively-challenged lineup in for ND with Torres, Burns, and Djogo subbing in, Gibbs decided to make me look like a fool for calling them that with a nice drive to the hoop to give the Irish a 45-43 lead.

Nevertheless, Luke Maye kept doing Luke Maye things, getting offensive rebounds and buckets and tying things up at 45. DJ Harvey wasn’t having it, though, and he knocked down a three off of a nice kick-out pass from Gibbs to break the tie and send the crowd into a bit of a frenzy.

Per usual, the Tar Heels immediately responded with a basket. The Irish took a 48-47 lead into the first media timeout of the 2nd half.

During that timeout, the Purcell DJ made his first mistake of the night, playing “Centuries” by Fall Out Boy. With his perfect game finished, the crowd was definitely deflated and not at all hyped.

The Purcell staff recovered nicely, though, initiating another T-Shirt Toss Time! During this T-Shirt Toss Time, I reflected on my favorite kind of adults in this process — the ones who don’t quite go all-out in their screaming for a t-shirt, but instead just feel the need to stand up and depressingly, half-assedly wave to the people throwing t-shirts in the hopes that they might see them and feel pity for them, tossing them a pity t-shirt. It’s a bold strategy that works 0% of the time.

As play resumed, the fans got to see The Bird Whisperer continue to do what has now become the new norm for The Bird Whisperer, as he got a great blocked shot, pulled down another impressive offensive board, and forced a jump ball on the defensive end. Is there any more unbelievable improvement in a player’s game in the entire country than Marty Geben??? Dude is a machine and without him this team wouldn’t even be competing in these games.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Irish got the ball out in transition and Pflueger made an ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL pass to Mooney, threading the needle to set up Mooney for the open layup to give ND a one-point lead. Of course, it wouldn’t be a story of ND taking the lead in a big game without the other team responding immediately, this time with the Tar Heels getting a very easy layup thanks to some bad defense. The Tar Heels regaining their one-point lead as we went into the under-12 timeout signified the 20th lead chance of the game. This was insane.

After a Theo Pinson three-ball pushed the UNC lead to 4, Pflueger had a bad turnover that led to another basket for the Tar Heels. Brey called a timeout at the 9:50 mark to get his team re-focused so that the 6-point deficit didn’t get any larger.

During this timeout, the Pom Squad came back out for their 2nd half performance and wouldn’t you know it, they actually had their pom poms out there with them! Hooray for ND having an honest-to-goodness Pom Squad!

After the Purcell DJ got back into his groove by playing “Take On Me,” fans got to see The Bird Whisperer continue to pull off his wizardry as he found a way to get a basket just before the shot clock expired.

The Irish followed that up with their next possession ending in similar fashion, as Gibbs tossed up a wild prayer that hit no part of the hoop, but Pflueger zoomed in, collected the ball from the air, and laid it in the hoop just before the shot clock expired. It was then 56-54, and the crowd was “Cranked” according to the Noise Meter on the video board. “Cranked” is the second-highest level of noice on the Noise Meter, and I have to say, I think this was accurate. The place was LOUD.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Pinson came down and got himself some sort of oopty-oop shot to make it 58-54, but TJ Gibbs followed that with a three to cut the Tar Heel lead to 1. After Joel Berry II answered with a nice little jumper of his own, Gibbs once again proclaimed loudly that anything Joel could do, he could do better, and drained another deep ball (after a nice behind-the-back pass from Pflueger) to tie the game up and force a UNC timeout with 6:53 remaining in the game.

Just before that timeout ended, the Purcell DJ transitioned from whatever decent song he was playing to “Sandstorm,” and this was a masterful stroke. The students got REALLY into it and the entire crowd felt like it hadn’t lost the buzz it normally loses with a timeout. The Irish were Goddamn ready for the final 7 minutes of this one.

The loud crowd certainly played a part in UNC throwing the ball out of bounds, leading to what I’m just going to call the Nikola Djogo Extravaganza.

The Nikola Djogo Extravaganza began at around the 6:30 mark, when he got open on the perimeter and absolutely buried a three pointer to put the Irish up 63-60. The crowd went nuts, for sure, but they would go even crazier when, on the next possession, Djogo launched another one from deep, and it rolled around the rim a couple times before falling into the hoop.

Within a span of about 30 seconds, sophomore Nik Djogo, who has very limited experience and hasn’t been called on much to play in crunch time of big games like this (if at all), had hit two MONSTROUS threes to give his team a 6-point lead on a top-20 team.

This was bonkers, and that’s exactly what the crowd was going. It was bedlam.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The bedlam was quieted some by a Joel Berry II layup, and then deflated a little more when Djogo’s heat-check three on the other end missed terribly. After another Tar Heel basket made it a two-point game, the last media timeout featured the ND band playing “Mr. Brightside,” which in all honesty should have brought the house down.

Instead, a lot of people seemed somewhat disinterested, including the students. My message to the students: when “Mr. Brightside” comes on, you NEED to shout that shit in unison. It will change the atmosphere in Purcell and intimidate any and all opposing players. Plus, that song bangs. Just get this figured out, you guys.

As the Irish continued to struggle to score again, Luke Maye somehow managed to get a wide open dunk behind the defense to tie things up at 66 with 2 minutes to play. Definitely a tough pill to swallow, allowing their absolute best player to get the ball at the basket with no one remotely close to him.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After Djogo got blocked at the rim after a nice, aggressive take to get there, Maye drew Geben’s 4th foul and went to the line for two shots. He air-balled the first one, which can be added to all the things in this game that defied logic, but then hit the second to give his team a 1-point lead with 1:30 left.

On the other end, TJ Gibbs made a beautiful drive and finish in the lane while being fouled, but the referee called it a charge because he hates good basketball and Roy Williams slipped him a few 20s just moments before. The crowd booed very loudly, and rightfully so, and Gibbs came away limping a little bit from the collision. He would be okay, but definitely not a fun sequence for Irish fans.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With 37 seconds to go, Kenny Williams was called for a loose ball foul as he and Gibbs went for a rebound, fouling Williams out and putting Gibbs at the line with a 1-and-1 opportunity.

Gibbs drained both, showing cojones and poise and gumption that I have never shown in my life, and the Irish held a 68-67 lead with 32.2 seconds remaining. UNC called a timeout, and all Irish fans held their breaths and muttered over and over to themselves that we just need one stop. Just one stop. Let’s go.

The Irish came out on that last UNC possession and played stupendous defense. It was fantastic, and with the shot clock winding down, Joel Berry II was COMPLETELY bailed out by the refs as they called a super ticky-tack foul on Gibbs.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

This sent Berry to the line, and as a roughly 89% free throw shooter, he of course knocked down both tries to give the Tar Heels a 1-point lead with 7.1 seconds remaining.

After timeouts from both sides, it was time for Notre Dame to settle the madness.

Gibbs dribbled the ball down the right side of the court, paced by 1-2 UNC players the entire way as he got off a very difficult, contested layup attempt at the hoop. The shot did not fall, but the defenders who contested him flew under the hoop after contesting the shot, giving Gibbs an open put-back opportunity just before the buzzer.

Gibbs’ put-back was off by mere inches, or even centimeters, as it hit the corner of the square in the backboard, bounced around the rim, and fell harmlessly outside the cylinder. Never mind the fact that Gibbs was struck in the face as he went for said put-back, as the refs had swallowed their whistles at that point.

Gibbs fell to the court, kneeling in anguish as he had been this close to hitting a buzzer beater to beat a top-20 team without BONZIE and Farrell and push the Irish to 4-1 in ACC play. It was a heart-wrenching moment, to be sure.

69-68 final, UNC wins.

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Final Stats

Notre Dame: TJ Gibbs led the way for the Irish, scoring 19 points while also grabbing 5 rebounds and dishing out 6 assists. He shot just 6-of-20 from the field, though. Marty “The Bird Whisperer” Geben put together another brilliant performance down low, scoring 14 points and snagging 9 rebounds — 7 of which were offensive! Nik Djogo contributed 12 and 4, Harvey had a great hustle game with 9 points and 8 rebounds, and Pflueger showed some improvement from his Pflu game, scoring 7 while rebounding 3 balls and assisting 4. ND shot 35% from the field, 42% from deep, and made 12-of-15 free throws. They also managed to out-rebound the #1 rebounding team in the country 45-37, which is INCREDIBLY impressive.

North Carolina: Luke Maye picked up another double-double, scoring 18 and grabbing 11 rebounds in another great performance. Joel Berry II scored 15 to go along with that, and Theo Pinson chipped in 13, including some big buckets in the second half. The Tar Heels shot 43% from the field, 29% from deep, and made 11-of-17 free throws on the evening. UNC did its best ND impression taking care of the ball, though, turning it over just 7 times while picking up 16 team assists.

Stray Observations

  • UNC has guys named Seventh Woods and Sterling Manley on their team. Fantastic name game down there in Chapel Hill
  • This picture of Rex Pflueger in front of his big cardboard head in the crowd is SPECTACULAR
NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • I can’t gush enough over Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben and where he is as a player right now. We can talk about his 7 offensive rebounds or that he’s contributing basically a double-double average in ACC play, but what I actually am the most shocked and impressed by with Marty is the confidence he now plays with down low. I remember him as a freshman or sophomore and how tentative he was, and how clearly not confident he was in his ability to contribute in terms of offense. Last year we saw a few flashes, but he still didn’t look like a guy who could do what he’s doing now.

Last night, I saw him back down Luke Maye multiple times, and he WANTED the ball. He was going to work, fully intending to score on an All-ACC big man in Maye. Geben definitely could still be more polished in his finishing on his post moves, but damnit if it isn’t awesome to see him demand the ball and confidently back down someone with NBA talent like Maye. Hell, I saw Geben yank a rebound away from Harvey at one point — the savagery and confidence is fantastic. This is a big man I can follow into ACC play.

  • I loved what Djogo was able to give last night. He’s looked a little more lost than most of the younger guys in the past few games, and some were questioning whether he was ready for this much playing time. Last night, he answered the bell completely, knocking down a bunch of big shots from the outside and showing the confidence to take a heat-check one, which was hilariously bad, but showed how comfortable he now is in that situation. Plus, Djogo plays some very underrated and solid defense out there and can guard a number of positions, so I am VERY encouraged by what he did last night
NCAA Basketball: North Carolina at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • Also, if you’re a Notre Dame fan and not pumped as hell for two more years of TJ Gibbs running this team, you’re insane. The kid is a bulldog on defense and his offensive game gets better every day. Just thinking about him leading all that young talent next year and in 2019-2020 has me already daydreaming about a Final Four...
  • Roy Williams kept calling Mike Brey “Michael” in his postgame presser and I had to stifle a few chuckles, as that is SO WEIRD. Who else calls him Michael? Anyone? What in the world? Also, this presser was just funny because Roy was very clearly battling some cold/flu illness, and he just kept repeating how lucky UNC was, how “befuddled” he was about what happened, etc. That was a sick, delirious man who knew his team deserved to lose that game.
  • With all the encouraging/funny things said, though, it’s still very understandable why everyone in the Notre Dame program is pissed off. Mike Brey was the angriest I’ve ever seen him in a postgame presser (which still isn’t that angry compared to most coaches, but he was noticeably pissed):

Postgame Presser: Coach "Michael" Brey (Roy Williams kept calling him Michael and Pat Rick thinks it's hilarious)

Posted by One Foot Down - For Notre Dame Fighting Irish fans on Saturday, January 13, 2018

The refs made some terrible calls down the stretch, and that’s a reason to be mad. But I think the bigger reason Brey and his team are mad is because they had it. They played a game against a top-20 team without their two best players and they HAD THE GAME IN THEIR HANDS. They couldn’t score down the stretch, they came up just inches short on a game-winning shot, and they truly believe that they can and should beat a team like North Carolina.

That again shows the confidence and the heart and the strong team mindset that Brey has built in this program, and I truly believe that everyone this team plays from here on out, starting with the Louisville Cardinals on Tuesday, should be VERY afraid.

Matt Farrell will likely be back, Gibbs and Geben are playing great, Pflueger will be over his Pflu, and the young guys will keep scrapping and defending and rebounding. The Irish are dangerous and have a huge chip on their shoulder now and I think we’re about to see some extremely interesting games.

Losing this game was TOUGH, but I honestly believe it might be the perfect final straw for this team to get pissed off and go on a little run and pick up some tournament-quality wins.

I can’t wait to see if I’m right, and I would never bet against Michael Paul Brey and his team. They’ve proven time and again never to count them out.