Wednesday, November 23, 2016

"Jersey Boys" lead Notre Dame to Legends Classic championship

Matt Farrell shows his game face after go-ahead layup and game-clinching rebound in final minute, as Notre Dame defeated Northwestern in Legends Classic championship game. (Photo by Jason Schott/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Jason Schott (@JESchott19)

Notre Dame edged Northwestern 70-66 in the Legends Classic Championship Game on Tuesday night.

This one started out evenly, as Northwestern got out to a 14-12 lead in the opening minutes, but Notre Dame responded with an 11-0 run capped by a V.J. Beachem three-pointer to make it 23-14 at the 9:24 mark of the first half.

Notre Dame kept up the momentum and went up 11 points, 32-21, on a Bonzie Colson free throw at the 6:11 mark.

Northwestern responded with an 11-0 run capped by a Bryant McIntosh layup at the 1:44 mark that made it 35-31 Notre Dame, who took a 40-34 lead into the half.

Matt Farrell led Notre Dame with 11 points and four assists in the first half, while Scottie Lindsey also poured in 11 points for Northwestern.

In the second half, Notre Dame jumped out to a 50-40 lead on a Farrell jumper at the 16:43 mark.

Northwestern started to chip away at that lead, and a 9-2 run capped by a Nathan Taphorn three-pointer brought them to within 55-54 at the 11:11 mark.

The Wildcats weren't done, as a 10-0 run capped by a McIntosh three gave them a 64-58 lead at the 6:16 mark.

Notre Dame followed that up with a 7-0 run capped by an alley-oop from Farrell to Beachem to make it 65-64 with 3:11 left.

It stayed that way until there were just 39 seconds on the clock and McIntosh hit a jumper to give Northwestern a 66-65 edge.

Farrell was not done, and he put on an amazing move down the lane, got the basket and was fouled, enough for a three-point play to give Notre Dame a 68-66 lead with 14 seconds left. A Steve Vasturia steal led to that play.

The Notre Dame defense was stifling on the ensuing possession, and McIntosh got off a jumper, which was short, and Farrell rebounded it, was fouled, and then let out a big scream as there were just three seconds left and he was about to go take free throws to seal the victory.
Farrell made both free throws to make it 70-66, the perfect end to an 18-point night. The point guard who hails from New Jersey shot 5-11 from the field, including 2-4 on threes, with six assists and three rebounds.
Farrell said of the emotion he showed at the end of the game, "Having fun, just being back home and being in this building. It's a lot of fun playing with these guys."
Steve Vasturia, a Jersey native as well, also had 18 points on 6-11 shooting, 3-5 on threes, with eight rebounds and three assists.
Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey said of Farrell and Vasturia as he sat between them in the postgame press conference, "My Jersey boys! These are my Jersey guys right here! They've got some edge to them!"
Brey said of the win, "I'm so proud of this group. I think the experience of this nucleus of being in big games, tough games, and having finished as a group, guys out there that have dealt with a punch, and we certainly had to draw on all of that to escape. Northwestern is really good, (Head Coach) Chris (Collins) has done a fabulous job with the program, I think they're going to a be a very good team in the Big Ten. We've been in a lot of game situations, we're probably a little bit older and that helped us tonight to escape."
Brey said of his team, now 5-0 on the season, "We've been good at getting out of the gate early. That's something that V.J. (Beachem) and Steve (Vasturia) really talked about after that first exhibition game, and since then we've been getting off to good starts, especially on the offensive end, and that's helped us. Both second halfs (of the Legends Classic games, including Monday against Colorado) we ran into a team that guarded us better, and we had to grind and scratch and claw a little bit to win both nights, so you're proud of that. We started the half well, Steve (Vasturia) had those two threes, so we had some breathing room again. I like how we're starting games and halves, I hope we can keep that as a habit." 
Barclays Center has been real good to Notre Dame, who won two games in the NCAA Tournament East regional there this past March.
Brey said of their time in Brooklyn, "We've got great karma. I said to Doris Burke when I went for the interview 'Brooklyn magic still.' I mean, we had a crazy finish in the Steven F. Austin game. I love the fact that we're coming back here for the ACC Tournament, I'm sure gonna try to stir up the ghosts again in March. We're comfortable here, and I'm not going to over-analyze it."
Even though it's November, Brey has his eye on the NCAA Tournament, and he said of these wins being part of that, "You look at a tournament like this, and you go, I think we got two wins that I think will be resume wins, a Big Ten win and a Pac-12 win on a neutral court. I think they'll be resume wins, so you have to think a little like that, but you're also also thinking about trying to develop your team, and I'm looking down the bench and going, 'I got a couple guys I didn't play as much, young guys, do I get them in, but I need the win,' so you're torn a little bit right now. I'm glad that we came out of here with two really good wins."

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