Irish fight to title
Notre Dame rallies from 16 down to beat Wichita State 67-66 in championship game
LAHAINA — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey saw a rainbow as his team was arriving at the Lahaina Civic Center for the championship game of the Maui Jim Maui Invitational.
It was a harbinger of things to come as the Fighting Irish, ranked 13th in the nation by The Associated Press, escaped with a dramatic 67-66 win over No. 6 Wichita State in a game Notre Dame led for a total of 22 seconds.
“When we took a left to come up the road before you come in the back I saw a darned rainbow,” Brey said. “I’m thinking like that could be the real luck of the Irish. You’re looking for anything on game day. I’m looking for any sign possible thinking maybe it’s going to be a good day.”
The decisive points came with 2.3 seconds to go on free throws by Martinas Geben. The 6-foot-10 senior forward, fouled on an inbounds play with the Irish down 66-65, stepped to the foul line 6-for-10 on the season, but made both attempts — his first hung on the rim for a while.
“Well, divine intervention a little bit,” Brey said.
After Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson made a layup with eight seconds remaining, Matt Farrell, the tournament MVP, stole the ball, but his layup attempt was blocked by Zach Brown.
In the ensuing scramble, Notre Dame’s Rex Pfleuger tied up Wichita State’s Rauno Nurger. The possession arrow was going in Notre Dame’s direction and Geben was then fouled on the ensuing play.
“Between the steal, the tie-up and the execution in, what was that? A 20-second window? That’s a lot going on right there,” said Brey, whose team rallied from 16 points down and improved to 6-0. “You’ve got to have some smart guys and we’ve got really high basketball I.Q. guys.”
Notre Dame’s first Maui title was the tournament-best 13th for current members of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
“I thought it was a great college basketball game,” said Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall. “Obviously, I wish it had ended three seconds sooner. I thought our guys battled against a very, very good team with great players and a wonderful coach. I have tremendous respect for Notre Dame, but I love the guys in my locker room. I love those guys in my locker room, and we’re going to win our share of these.”
Brown scored 14 points for the Shockers, who fell to 4-1.
“We just needed one more play, one more stop, one more basket, and we could point to a lot of different things,” Marshall said. “But it came down to just that one play and three seconds.”
A jumper by Landry Shamet with 7:03 to play gave the Shockers a 62-53 lead — he finished with 10 points and seven assists. The Irish then went on an 8-0 run behind back-to-back 3-pointers by T.J. Gibbs and Colson, who finished with a game-high 25 points.
The difference was never more than three points the rest of the way.
“What a great college game for November,” Brey said. “Two really good teams. They are really good. 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.”
It was business as usual for Colson and Farrell, seniors who have been roommates since they arrived on campus in South Bend, Ind., as freshmen.
“For us to make a bunch of plays in the last 20 seconds to steal a win, you know, I can’t say I’m surprised, because it’s a group that’s won a lot together,” Brey said. “We said we wanted to have our name up on this wall. We felt our program was one of those programs now that deserved to be on the wall on the Maui wall here. I’m thrilled that it will be there, and we’ll be back in four years.”
Colson, a preseason AP All-American, said his team’s faith never wavered.
“We fight, and we give it all every game,” he said. “We give a lot of credit to Wichita State. They came out hitting shots, but we stayed composed. Our talk in the locker room was phenomenal. Everybody coming together saying, ‘Hey, we’ve got to pick things up.’ We did that. We just came out fighting. 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 finished with 15 points, four assists and three steals.
“We’ve got guys that are fearless,” he said. “Confident guys. I don’t know if you can say it was one play. Whoever was in the game was playing hard. Just trying to make the right play. Marti (Geben) was battling all game, rebounding. Rex (Pflueger) was down there rebounding. Everybody just played really hard, and we played for each other. There is something special about this group. We have a lot of fun with each other. It’s just a great vibe.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com.
WICHITA ST. (66)
Kelly 2-4 2-2 6, Z.Brown 5-6 0-0 14, Morris 3-6 2-2 8, Frankamp 5-12 0-0 12, Shamet 5-11 0-0 10, Willis 3-8 0-0 8, R.Brown 0-0 0-0 0, Nurger 2-6 0-0 4, Reaves 1-3 0-1 2, Haynes-Jones 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 27-59 4-5 66.
NOTRE DAME (67)
Colson 9-17 6-10 25, Geben 5-5 2-2 12, Farrell 6-14 1-1 15, Gibbs 2-6 2-2 7, Pflueger 1-4 2-2 4, Torres 0-0 0-0 0, Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Mooney 1-2 0-0 2, Harvey 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 25-51 13-17 67.
Halftime–Wichita St. 37-23. 3-Point Goals–Wichita St. 8-23 (Z.Brown 4-5, Willis 2-3, Frankamp 2-7, Reaves 0-1, Haynes-Jones 0-1, Nurger 0-2, Shamet 0-4), Notre Dame 4-12 (Farrell 2-4, Gibbs 1-1, Colson 1-4, Pflueger 0-1, Harvey 0-1, Mooney 0-1). Fouled Out–Morris. Rebounds–Wichita St. 27 (Kelly 8), Notre Dame 28 (Colson 11). Assists–Wichita St. 17 (Shamet 7), Notre Dame 13 (Farrell, Gibbs 4). Total Fouls–Wichita St. 16, Notre Dame 14. A–2,400 (2,400).
AP top 25
N.C. State 90, No. 2 Arizona 84
No. 5 Villanova 66, W. Kentucky 58
No. 13 Notre Dame 67, No. 6 Wichita St. 66
No. 8 Kentucky 86, Fort Wayne 67
No. 10 Southern Cal 88, Lehigh 63
No. 11 Miami 57, La Salle 46
No. 12 Cincinnati 78, Wyoming 53
Tennessee 78, No. 18 Purdue 75, OT
Maui Invitational champions