By Ken Cross
Wichita State led for 38 minutes in Notre Dame’s 67-66 Maui Championship win on Wednesday night, but it was the 2-3 zone and a staunch mental toughness of the Fighting Irish that allowed them to advance.
“They are really good,” explained Notre Dame’s Mike Brey, “We couldn’t guard them man-to-man. Thank God our zone got us back into things. But I’m really proud of our group. You could tell we have some guys that have played in big games and have won together.”
The Shockers found the jumpers in the grey areas of the zone, but they could not knock them down. The strategic adjustment worked beautifully although Brey prefers generally man-to-man defense and a faster pace.
“A lot of times a team changes their rhythm when they’re running their zone offense,” said Brey, “Maybe they get a little bashful when they’re shooting the jumpshot. We did a great job of rebounding out of it.”
#13 ND 67 • #6 Wichita St. 66@MauiInv Championship Game
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) November 23, 2017
The veteran tenacity of Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell kept the Irish close enough so that when the defense made stops, there was an offensive presence. Colson finished with 25 points and 11 rebounds in 35 minutes as his three-pointer with 5:51 left brought Notre Dame’s the closest in had been at 62-59.
“We just came out fighting,” explained Colson, “It was going to come down to game situations. We stuck to our principles on both sides of the floor, and we were hungry for this. We wanted another trophy in our locker room, and it’s great for our program.”
Farrell had 15 points as he had a key steal with 16 seconds remaining and fed the ball to Colson to cut the Shockers’ lead to 66-65. After Austin Reaves missed the front end of a one-and-one that would have helped Wichita State lock the game, Farrell had a shot blocked by Rashard Kelly.
Coming out of the time out, Brey used Farrell as a decoy, coming off screens on the right side of the floor. Martin Geben broke to the basket on a dive and beat Shaw Morris, who fouled him. Geben nailed both free throws as the Irish found the way to win.
“When you have smart guys and high basketball IQ guys, which this group is, Matty came off it first,” said Brey, “He takes a lot of traffic. Then Bonzie came off it. The great thing I kept telling them, even though they were fired up was like don’t rush to it.”