Matt Farrell delivers big effort in Notre Dame exhibition victory

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND - He kept a low profile far off the basketball radar last winter while stuck behind talented guards on the depth chart, often going days and weeks without seeing the floor in a game.

But Notre Dame sophomore Matt Farrell never lost confidence.

Maybe it was his New Jersey roots. Maybe it was going up against the dynamic Demetrius Jackson — and sometimes dishing out as much as he took — every day in practice. Maybe it was just who he is — a college basketball player who believes he can play really well at this level.

Whatever the case, Farrell carries the belief that in some way, shape or form this season, he’s going to help this basketball team in games.

Farrell’s savvy and skills were on display in Friday’s exhibition opener against NAIA Division II St. Francis (Ill.).

The second man off the bench, Farrell played like he belonged right from the start, going for 10 points and four assists in 18 minutes as Notre Dame rolled to an 87-56 victory at Purcell Pavilion.

“I’ve been practicing well and just try to be myself out there when I’m on the court,” Farrell said. “Just play my game, know my teammates have my back and just try to flow within the offense.

“It’s really easy to get good shots and not force anything when you’re playing with good players.”

Farrell scored a total of 14 points with seven assists in 15 games last season. He had a perfect line going — 4-of-4 from the field, including 2-of-2 from 3 — before checking back in with 4:11 and missing a mid-range jumper. That’s about the time in last year’s exhibition when Farrell would have been getting his first bite of the minutes apple.

Not so this year.

“He has really practiced well,” coach Mike Brey said. “He is an amazing weapon coming off the bench. We’ve got to keep nurturing that. Right now, he’s a confident guy.

“Even this summer, it was coming.”

Brey likes how Farrell can facilitate, find guys and look to score, almost from the jump, when he’s in the game. He’ll make the right pass at the right time, but also eye an open look — and then stick it.

“If I’m open I’m going to take the shot,” he said. “I like to get my teammates involved, but if’ I’m open, I’m going to take that shot with confidence.”

Needing to replace the leading scorer (Jerian Grant) and leading rebounder (Pat Connaughton) off last year’s team that finished 32-6, Notre Dame got a team-high 12 points from Bonzie Colson and a team-best eight rebounds from Zach Auguste.

Four scored double figures for the Irish, who led for the final 34:52 and by as many as 36 after trailing by as many as five. The Irish were good with making the extra pass (17 assists), sound on the backboard (+22 rebounding advantage) and solid from the foul line (21-of-25 for 84 percent), but a little loose with the ball (15 turnovers).

Some of that may be playing all 12 scholarship players with myriad rotations the first time out.

“Notre Dame is not known for having turnovers,” Colson said. “We want to be fine with that.”

Ilya Ilyayev led the Saints with 19 points.

“Notre Dame’s a great team,” said guard Jake Raspopovich, a Merrillville native who had 35 family members and friends watch him go for nine points and four assists. “It was a great opportunity to come here and play against this competition and compete at this level.”

Notre Dame’s length and quickness helped bust this one open late in the first half and into the second. Three players — Auguste, Colson and Demetrius Jackson — properly played passing lanes, mustered steals and sailed in with breakaway dunks in the runaway final 20 minutes.

All 12 scholarship players saw action within the first 11:14 for the Irish, who rode a 24-4 burst to flip a five-point deficit into a 15-point lead following a corner 3 from freshman Rex Pflueger.

“We’ve got a lot to work with,” Brey said.

The sixth Irish reserve into the game, Pflueger was almost TOO hyped to see his first college action. While on his way to the scorer’s table, Pflueger went to shed his warm-up top, and accidently stripped off his white jersey in the process.

Notre Dame had to answer a little adversity early — rare for an opener exhibition game. Auguste went to the bench with two fouls in the first three minutes, the home team fell down by five and turned it over three times before the first media timeout at the under-16 minute mark.

Notre Dame closed the final 15:58 of the first half with a 36-8 run to lead 42-19 at intermission.

“We have a tendency to feel things out the first couple minutes,” Jackson said. “We just need to go, have fun, just go and lock in on the defensive end and just play.”

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Matt Farrell was a seldom-used reserve last season, something that could change this year for Notre Dame. The sophomore guard was solid in the Irish exhibition opener Friday against St. Francis (Ill.).SBT File Photo/GREG SWIERCZ


At Purcell Pavilion

ST. FRANCIS (56): Ilya Ilyayev 7-15 3-5 19; Jens Kennedy 4-12 4-6 12; Jake Raspopovich 2-4 5-6 9; Landus Anderson 1-1 0-0 2; Edvinas Presniakovas 3-7 0-0 9; Bresnion Tucker 0-3 0-0 0; Jo Jo Ballestero 1-3 0-0 3; Ryan Peter 0-1 0-0 0; Logan Timmons 0-2 0-0 0; Iain Morison 1-2 0-0 2; Jean Pietrzak 0-1 0-0 0. TOTALS: 19-52 12-17 56.

NOTRE DAME (87): V.J. Beachem 3-7 2-2 9; Zach Auguste 3-5 3-4 9; Bonzie Colson 5-6 1-2 12; Demetrius Jackson 3-8 4-4 10; Steve Vasturia 3-5 3-3 10; Rex Pflueger 1-3 0-0 3; Austin Torres 2-5 0-1 4; Matt Ryan 2-8 2-2 8; Matt Farrell 4-5 0-0 10; Elijah Burns 1-2 0-0 2; Austin Burgett 1-1 2-2 4; Matt Gregory 0-0 0-0 0; Martinas Geben 1-4 4-5 6. TOTALS: 29-59 21-25 87.

Halftime score: Notre Dame 42, St. Francis 19.

Field-goal shooting: St. Francis 19-for-52 (36.5 percent); Notre Dame 29-for-59 (49.2); 3-point field goals: St. Francis 6 (Presniakovas 3, Ilyayev2, Ballestero); Notre Dame 8 (Farrell 2, Ryan 2, Beachem, Pflueger, Vasturia). Rebounds: St. Francis 23 (Ilyayev 7); Notre Dame 45 (Auguste 8). Assists: St. Francis 12 (Raspopovich 4); Notre Dame 17 (Vasturia 6). Turnovers: St. Francis 18; Notre Dame 15. Total fouls (fouled out): St. Francis 18 (Kennedy); Notre Dame 16 (none). Officials: Ray Perone, Bert Smith, Ron Tyburski. Attendance: 5,873.