The Irish (5-0) have been hotter than the Kilauea volcano to start the 2017-2018 basketball season. Notre Dame defeated LSU 92-53 in the semifinal round of the Maui Invitational Tuesday night. The game, played in Hawaii, tipped off at 10:30pm ET. For all those that were not able to stay up and watch, here is a quick recap:
This semifinal matchup got off to a shaky start for both teams. LSU won the tipoff and proceeded to grab 3 consecutive offensive rebounds after missed shots. During that same series, however, the Tigers lost one of their starting guards, Brandon Sampson, to an ankle injury.
Losing Sampson definitely hurt the Tigers’ chances in this contest, but I think it’s safe to say that they still would not have been able to defeat Notre Dame tonight had Sampson been able to return to the game. The Irish were firing on all cylinders in what was their best performance through five games this season.
The game was tied 4-4 with just over 17 minutes left in the first half. On the ensuing Irish possession, TJ Gibbs hit his second three of the night, and the Irish never looked back. Notre Dame lead 40-24 at halftime, and then continued to pour it on LSU in the second half, where they lead by as much as 39 points.
The Irish were very efficient offensively, shooting 51.6% from the field and 47% from three. TJ Gibbs lead all scorers with a career-high 26 points and was 6/10 from three.
Matt Farrell had 17 points and 7 assists on the night. He was masterful in orchestrating the Irish offense, both on the fast break and in half-court sets. There was a noticeable drop off offensively when Farrell came out of the game. TJ Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, and DJ Harvey are all asked to handle the ball in those instances. I’m confident they’ll continue to improve in those roles as the year progresses.
As if their offensive performance wasn’t impressive enough, the Irish also had an excellent defensive game. They finished the game with 12 steals and 2 blocks. TJ Gibbs and Bonzie Colson were standouts on that end of the court. Gibbs has the quickness to stay in front of most guards, and Colson continues to frustrate big men who are half a foot taller than him.
After giving up three consecutive offensive rebounds to start the game, Notre Dame was able to take control of the glass. The Irish out-rebounded LSU 35-32. Rebounding has been a well-known area of concern for Notre Dame in recent seasons. Mike Brey does have a bit more size in his rotation to work with this year. I’m hoping to see gradual improvement in this area this season.
Notre Dame will take on #6 Wichita State in the tournament final tomorrow (Wednesday) night at 10:30pm ET.