Notes: Former Notre Dame standout David Rivers cherishes Ring honor

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Two allotted minutes had come and gone. Then three and four. And five. Even as the halftime clock wound nearly all the way down, former Notre Dame point guard David Rivers showed zero sign of wrapping it all up.

Rivers was inducted into the school’s Ring of Honor during halftime of Saturday’s 84-66 victory over Syracuse. One of the best to ever step on the Purcell Pavilion floor relished being back on it with a speech that just kept going.

And going.

And going.

He didn’t want it to end.

Not after administrators stepped closer toward him as a hint that his time was about up. Not after the volume on the background music grew louder and louder the way it does at the Oscars when a commercial break beckons. Not even after the Orange players had returned from the locker room.

This was Rivers’ day, and he was going to enjoy it. His words brought a roar from the Notre Dame student body. His words brought tears to the eyes of his coach, Digger Phelps, who stood baseline.

Notre Dame meant everything to the kid from Jersey City, N.J., and he just wanted everyone to know how much he appreciated it. And them.

“This place is special, and I try to describe it sometimes,” Rivers said during a pre-Ring press conference Saturday morning. “Some people find it rare that the first thing you want to talk about is the student body and the faculty.

“They touched my heart. I don’t think they quite know that.”

Rivers ranks in the Top 10 of nine different statistical categories including career scoring (sixth, 2,058), assists (fifth, 586), steals (fourth, 201) and free throws made (third, 583).

What would Rivers want people to most know about his game when they look up from this day forward and see his No. 4 hanging on the east end of Purcell Pavilion?

“I’d want them to know and understand that I did the things I was able to do because I was dedicated, I was devoted, I was committed to persevering through anything,” he said. “The success came because of the way I practiced.

“The games were the easiest part for me.”

It showed.

Fine free throws

Following three un-Irish-like showings over the previous four league games, Notre Dame returned to its elite foul-shooting ways.

The leading free throw shooting team in the country, coming in at 82.4 percent, the Irish finished 15-of-16 (93.8 percent) from the foul line. Notre Dame shot 66.7 percent two weeks prior in the home win over Clemson, connected on only 65 percent the previous Saturday in a win at Virginia Tech and hit on 73.3 percent in Wednesday’s loss at No. 10 Florida State.

Notre Dame went 9-of-10 in the second half. Only Martinas Geben missed one.

“I can do that every now and then,” he said of finishing with career highs for makes (five) and attempts. “I don’t miss two in a row, so the next one’s going to be a make. It was very important for us to be aggressive and attacking.”

In one of the season’s quirkier statistics, Notre Dame may have been best in the country for foul shooting, but only third in its first six ACC games (76.7 percent). Syracuse entered Saturday’s game the league leader at 81.9, then hit only 14 of 20 (70 percent) on Saturday.

Quality quarterback

Job One for Irish point guard Matt Farrell is to take care of the basketball.

Always.

He can shoot it and score and it swipe it from defenders, but when he’s not treating the ball like it’s gold — a must in coach Mike Brey’s system —Farrell’s frustration knows no limits. That’s why he was so sour about his recent run of turnovers, which included a season-high six in Wednesday’s loss at No. 10 Florida State.

“I had some costly turnovers,” he said. “Most of the turnovers were stupid turnovers, and that can’t happen with us.”

Farrell knew he had to be better. On Saturday, he was. Farrell finished with nine assists, one shy of tying his career high, to three turnovers. He also controlled tempo and made decision-making against the Syracuse zone look frighteningly easy.

“The big thing was taking care of the ball,” Farrell said. “We did a good job getting it below the free throw line and coming to a jump-stop, not forcing things, and just finding the right guys.

“We did a good job.”

Easy one

This one didn’t follow the ACC script for Notre Dame.

Not even close.

After winning its first five conference contests by a combined 23 points, the Irish led by as many as 22 points Saturday for the runaway win.

Shedding his suit coat for the start of the second half on an unusually warm day in Purcell Pavilion, Irish coach Mike Brey kept waiting for the game situations to arise in the final 20 minutes. But after getting as close as seven points on a Tyler Lydon bucket to start the second half, the Orange never got closer than 11 over the final 12 minutes.

The Irish had too many answers to make this any more interesting.

“It was kind of nice to have a little bit of a cushion,” Brey said.

The lone Orange lead was 2-0 and lasted all of 24 seconds.

Baseline bits

• Irish senior guard Steve Vasturia made his 101st consecutive start. He’s one of four players in program history (Pat Connaughton, Pat Garrity, Chris Thomas) to start at least 100 consecutive games.

• V.J. Beachem’s career-best 30 points leaves now leaves him 13 shy of 1,000 for his career. Beachem will be the 60th player in school history, and second this season (joining Vasturia), to hit the milestone.

• Irish power forward Bonzie Colson finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for his league-best 12th double double.

• Saturday marked Notre Dame’s first win over Syracuse in exactly five seasons. The Orange were ranked No. 1 on Jan. 21, 2012 before losing to the Irish. Syracuse had won the last four and seven of eight in the series.

• At 17-3, 6-1, Notre Dame remains in a three-way tie for first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Florida State and North Carolina also won Saturday. Both are 6-1.

• Saturday’s game featured a collection of former Notre Dame players including Joey Brooks, Pat Garrity, Zach Hillesland and Tom Knight. Former Irish assistant Jeff Nix attended the game, as did former Irish football player Pat Eilers, who sat in a front-row baseline seat with his family.

• The Irish are 12-0 at home, 3-0 in league play with six more conference contests remaining continuing Tuesday with a visit from No. 16 Virginia.

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI