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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. N.C. State Wolfpack: Three Things We Learned

Shorthanded Irish rally behind Mike Brey, but man do I miss Bonzie already.

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

The breaks were beating the boys after Bonzie Colson suffered a fractured foot in practice, but Mike Brey’s Irish responded with a resounding 88-58 win over North Carolina State on Wednesday to move to 2-0 in ACC play.

The past few days have been an emotional roller coaster for the Irish, with Brey becoming the all-time winningest coach in program history just over 24 hours after news broke of Colson’s devastating injury. For now, the Irish can celebrate their head coach after an easy win at home.

Here is what we learned from the 30-point thumping of the Wolfpack.

Brey is Best

Win number 394 may not have been something we learned from the game itself, but Brey’s historic achievement has to be acknowledged. After all, this win to move him past Digger Phelps as Notre Dame’s all-time wins leader seemed to be the type of win that epitomized Brey’s time in South Bend.

Brey’s Irish were without their best player and preseason conference Player of the Year, and lost their next best player in Matt Farrell soon after, yet Brey rallied his troops and made sure they put forth an electric performance, using a balanced attack to cripple the Wolfpack. Nine different Irish found their way into the scoring column on Wednesday night, including four in double figures. The always positive Brey was not going to let his boys sulk without their leader, and that’s why he’s among the best coaches in the nation. Here’s to Mike Brey.

Bonzie wasn’t immediately missed, but he will be

Winning by 30 hardly leaves room to see the Bonzie Colson-sized void on the court, but it was there if you squint. Sure, the Irish put up 88 points, but they also went through a drought of almost five minutes in the second half in which they failed to score from the field. The slump became moot since the Wolfpack couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn (the team shot 8-for-30 in the second half), but in tight ACC games when the Irish need a bucket, Colson won’t be there to help out. They need to avoid those scoring droughts and find their new consistent, reliable scorer.

That would normally be Farrell, but now he is sidelined with an ankle sprain after turning it late in the first half. Farrell never returned, and Brey seems fairly certain that he won’t have Farrell on Saturday against Syracuse, so the supporting cast will have to step up in a big way to keep the Irish afloat while their two leaders are on the mend. Hopefully Farrell returns quickly, and at some point in March we see Colson ride in on a white horse to lead Her loyal sons.

Underclassmen stepping up

We mentioned the supporting cast needing to step up, and they certainly did that on Wednesday night. TJ Gibbs scored a game-high 22 points on 50-percent shooting, which he will need to keep up if the Irish are to tread water for the next eight weeks. Gibbs was fantastic from the floor and lethal in transition, and will have to also step up his passing if Farrell is out past Saturday.

Meanwhile, freshman D.J. Harvey finished with a career-high 17 points while shooting 3-for-4 from downtown. Colson and Farrell leave behind an awful lot of scoring, so Gibbs and Harvey will be desperately needed. Harvey is one of the most coveted recruits in the Mike Brey era, and he may need to evolve faster than originally anticipated to keep the Irish in the NCAA Tournament mix, especially when the top dogs of the ACC come to town.