Matt Farrell's 18 points drove Notre Dame past Pitt, advancing Fighting Irish into second round of ACC Tournament. (Photo by David Welker/Atlantic Coast Conference, used with official permission)
BROOKLYN -- Notre Dame arrived at Barclays Center Tuesday with two objectives in mind.
First and foremost, advancing into the second round of the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament was the main goal, with winless Pitt standing in the way of the Fighting Irish and a second game on the home floor of the Brooklyn Nets.
Second, playing itself back into NCAA Tournament consideration was on the list for head coach Mike Brey and his team, who endured injuries to seniors Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell for significant portions of the regular season, paying the price in the short term with a No. 10 seed in Brooklyn and needing to win five games in as many days to walk away with an automatic bid into the field of 68.
"We feel we've come through more adversity than anybody in the country," Farrell said after Notre Dame squeaked by Pitt Tuesday afternoon, holding on for a 67-64 victory -- the 500th of Brey's career -- despite making just four field goals after halftime. "Our guys have fought all year, and it's made us mentally tough. We know a lot of games down here are going to come down to game situations just like today, so we just need to stay calm and do what we do."
Doing what they do also includes winning in Brooklyn, where the Irish improved to 8-2 since the building opened in 2012 and have enjoyed a considerable advantage almost every time out.
"We're really good and confident in this building, and we know we've had a lot of wins," said Colson of playing in the counterpart to Madison Square Garden, traditionally a house of horrors for the Irish in the past. "We feed off the energy."
"I reminded them a lot as we prepared for Brooklyn that we've been really good in this building," Brey reiterated. "We're very comfortable in this building and we believe in this building. I think it really helps us that we got all the way to Saturday night last year (the Irish lost to Duke in the ACC championship game), and this group experienced a deep run."
Next up for Notre Dame is a Wednesday night encounter with Virginia Tech that would be a major boon to the Irish's at-large aspirations should they come away victorious, a just reward, Brey feels, for what his players have endured.
"This senior class will always have a special spot in my heart because of how they led through a crisis situation with the injuries," he said. "I almost feel that they deserve some good fortune now after going through it all. They've been men and they've kept the group together, and they've kept us believing."
As has the Brooklyn magic that was recaptured Tuesday afternoon, and hopes to be bottled up for recurring use throughout the week.