Matt Farrell and the Irish Put BC's Tournament Hopes in Jeopardy

Matt Farrell and the Irish Put BC’s Tournament Hopes in Jeopardy

By: JD Biagioni

Final: ND 84 – BC 67

The Eagles rode a two-game winning streak into a pivotal Saturday afternoon home matchup with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. BC eked out a season-saving upset over then #25 Miami last Saturday and then trounced Pitt for BC’s first road ACC victory since 2015. The Irish, meanwhile, have struggled since star power forward and preseason Wooden Award candidate Bonzie Colson was lost to injury in December. The two teams last met February 6th in South Bend, when the Irish shot the lights out of the building, snapping a 7-game losing streak with a 96-85 victory over BC.

BC-Notre Dame always draws a crowd, but this was the first time in a many seasons that the Irish have come to Chestnut Hill with each team having a legitimate, albeit outside, shot at making the March Madness tournament. The crowd was electric from the opening tip-off; a “Let’s go Eagles!” chant broke out on the first offensive possession, and the raucous crowd helped assist on an ND turnover on the first defensive possession.

Early made threes by the Irish and misses by BC put the Eagles behind by 11 just over 5 minutes into the game, forcing Coach Jim Christian to call a timeout. The three-point barrage kept coming and Christian used another timeout with BC down 24-7 at 12:03. Off the timeout, a Ky Bowman and-one and a Nic Popovic slam left BC down 14, but the plays reenergized the crowd.

Senior Irish guard, and former BC commit, Matt Farrell had himself a game. In the first ten minutes alone, he dropped 20 points on 6-of-6 shooting from deep. Jerome Robinson heated up with five quick points, but Farrell had an answer for every basket, keeping the lead at 17 (34-17) with 7 minutes remaining in the first half.

After Notre Dame pushed the lead to 20, an 8-0 BC run, including threes by Robison and Bowman, cut the deficit to 12 and put BC ahead of Matt Farrell in points (at one point, Farrell had 23 points to BC’s 19). Another Farrell three from well behind the line put him at 8-of-8 from beyond the arc and within 2 points of tying his career high of 28 points at only 17 minutes into the game.

Minutes later, Steffon Mitchell had a thunderous block on Farrell, which ignited a crowd that had seen Farrell score at will to that point. The teams traded misses before Robinson drained a three and ND made a two to beat the buzzer. BC went to the locker room down 16; guys not named Jerome Robinson shot 5-23 from the field for BC in the first half. One would have to imagine that halftime talk from Christian included getting someone other than Robinson hot and making sure to lock down Farrell.

An 8-0 Irish run to open the second half left BC down 23. Vin Baker Jr., fresh off a career-best 11-point performance, checked in for the first time a few minutes into the second. BC also broke out the press and a 2-3 zone to try to stymie the Irish attack. The first few trips down, the defensive adjustments worked, forcing a shot-clock violation and almost causing a beautiful steal by Robinson that unfortunately was called a foul.

With BC down 23, the Eagles showed that characteristic grit that has made them such an enjoyable team this season. The defense forced another turnover and Ky Bowman had a thunderous chase-down block on a Notre Dame breakaway. Another ND turnover and a quick 5 by Popovic cut the lead to 17 and gave BC a spark of life with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Matt Farrell finally missed a 3-pointer, and Bowman layer one in on the other end to push the BC run to 10-0 and bring the Eagles to within 14.

With 7 minutes left in the second, a few more ND turnovers and misses coupled with a few BC buckets cut the lead to single digits for the first time since early in the first. Notre Dame started to show signs of frustration, as Farrell glared at the referee after catching an elbow and Nikola Djogo failed on a 1-and-1 attempt. Robinson and Farrell traded buckets but BC couldn’t push past nine down as the game approached its final minutes. BC showed heart until the final buzzer but ultimately dug too big of a hole for themselves to climb out of in the second half.

This loss doesn’t help matter for a BC team that has been shown no love on the bubble watch in recent weeks. BC will almost certainly need to win three of their last four regular season games and come away with at least two wins in the ACC Tournament to get back into contention for a spot in the Big Dance.

Even in a loss, the crowd showed its appreciation for the Eagles’ efforts this season with a standing ovation as time wound down. For a team that went 0-18 in ACC play two years ago and was projected to finish in the bottom 2 of the ACC in 2018, a meaningful game in late February is something not many expected. Despite the result, this team continues to give fans reasons to believe that the future is bright on the Heights.

Quotes and Stats:

  • Jerome Robinson on not giving up when down 26: “We definitely wanted to show heart… We’ve battled back before.”
  • Jim Christian on bouncing back from this loss and competing for a tournament berth: “They know what’s at stake, these guys know what were trying to do, they understand the road to get there.”
  • Matt Farrell: 10 3-point field goals made, one shy of tying the ACC single-game record.
  • Jerome Robinson: combined for 75 points in BC’s two games versus Notre Dame