Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell out indefinitely with bone bruise to ankle

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — A week away from Atlantic Coast Conference game action was expected to offer a window to get healthy for the Notre Dame men’s basketball team.

Yet, like this season to date for the Irish, this week didn’t go exactly as planned. Or hoped.

Senior point guard Matt Farrell will be shut down “indefinitely” with a bone bruise to his left ankle, an injury stemming from a sprain originally suffered Jan. 3 against North Carolina State.

Coach Mike Brey made the announcement Thursday afternoon in advance of Saturday’s home game against Virginia Tech.

Farrell also will miss Monday’s matchup at No. 4 Duke. He might return a week from Saturday — Feb. 3 — at North Carolina State. He might not. He might be out for only three games. He might be out longer.

With seven days between games, Notre Dame took Sunday and Monday off from practice, then returned to workouts Tuesday morning. Farrell participated in light drills but wasn’t moving as well as Brey had hoped.

“We didn’t make any progress with that healing up Sunday through Tuesday,” Brey said. “He was really sore Wednesday morning in practice.”

A Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI) was taken Wednesday which revealed the bone bruise. He’ll be re-evaluated next week.

“We cannot bring him back until he’s healthy,” Brey said. “And if that means four games or five games, then that’s the way it’s going to be.

“It’s just not fair to him and it’s kind of not fair to us.”

Farrell was not available Thursday for comment. He had not missed a game because of injury over his previous three seasons. He’ll have missed at least five following Thursday’s news. His absence leaves the Irish with eight available scholarship players. The eighth is former walk-on Matt Gregory.

Already without leading scorer and rebounder Bonzie Colson until early March with a broken left foot, the Irish lose their second leading scorer in Farrell, who was averaging 15.7 points, a team-high 5.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 34.9 minutes per game.

“He’s past frustration,” Brey said. “He’s handled it pretty darn well. He knows he can help us, but he can’t help us if he’s dragging that thing around.”

Notre Dame also is without freshman swingman D.J. Harvey. He is expected to miss at least the next three weeks with a bone bruise to his left knee suffered in the Jan. 16 loss to Louisville.

Brey believes that there’s a chance Harvey could be back for next week’s game at North Carolina State.

The Irish have fielded seven different starting lineups in their first seven ACC games. Saturday will be No. 8 with sophomore Nikola Djogo expected to make his first career start.

“I don’t think we’ve ever had it like this,” Brey said. “We can’t complain. We have been pretty darn lucky on the injury front and have had a good run avoiding some stuff.

“Can you handle it? It’s been hard for us to handle it.”

Farrell suffered a sprained left ankle late in the first half of the Jan. 3 game against North Carolina State.

“I never had a sprain like that before; it was awful,” Farrell told the Tribune earlier this month. “I knew it right away (that) I wasn’t going to be able to finish that game.”

Farrell missed the second half of that 30-point victory and the following three games — a win at Syracuse, a loss at Georgia Tech and a home loss to No. 10 North Carolina.

Treating the ankle injury had Farrell in the training room up to seven hours a day every day for over a week. It was all he could do to get back in the lineup as soon as possible. He just didn’t want to play. He had to play.

“These are games that I’m not ever going to get back,” Farrell said. “I’m trying to get back as soon as I can. If I’m still hurting a little bit but I can go out and play, I’m going to play.”

Farrell pushed to play against North Carolina while Brey preached caution. He didn’t want Farrell to return early, not be 100 percent and then tweak the ankle and miss additional games.

Farrell returned for the home game against Louisville, and then played 48 of a possible 50 minutes of the double-overtime loss. He scored 23 points with eight assists and two steals. But he made only eight of 25 shots from the floor, including 4-of-14 from 3. After making six of his first nine shots for 15 points in the first seven minutes, Farrell managed eight points on 2-of-16 shooting over the final 41.

Brey guessed Farrell was about 75-80 percent healthy for Louisville. Farrell declined to put percentages on it afterward.

“My ankle’s fine,” he said.

In Saturday’s loss at No. 18 Clemson, Farrell scored a season-low six points with six assists in 32 minutes. He was 2-of-11 from the field, 2-of-10 from 3.

Farrell is 141 points shy of becoming the 62nd player in program history to score 1,000 in his career. He pushed Brey to get back early the first time around. He did do as much this week. He knows he needs to give it time. And now he will.

Farrell’s absence backs Notre Dame (13-7; 3-4 ACC) further into a corner as it aims to return to the NCAA tournament for a fourth straight season. The Irish have lost four straight league games.

Notre Dame is 1-4 since Brey became the winningest coach in program history.

Picked in preseason to finish third in the ACC, Notre Dame enters the final weekend of January tied for ninth in the league with Georgia Tech, Syracuse and Virginia Tech.

“Something happens to your team, you’ve got to keep moving forward,” said junior guard Rex Pflueger. “That’s kind of been the story of our team this year.

“It’s time for someone else to step up.”

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Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell (5) drives during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Louisville Tuesday, Jan. 16, 2018, in South Bend, Ind. Louisville won 82-78 in double overtime. (AP Photo/Robert Franklin)