Thanks to a deft steal, a brilliantly designed baseline out of bounds play and two clutch free throws, 13th-ranked Notre Dame pulled off the ultimate smash-and-grab victory at Wichita State’s expense.
The Irish edged the sixth-ranked Shockers 67-66 to win the Maui Invitational, overcoming a 16-point deficit to salvage a game they led for all of 22 seconds.
Notre Dame’s rally appeared likely to fall short when Bonzie Coleman missed an off-balance attempt at a game-tying 3-pointer with 17 seconds to go. It was then that Matt Farrell breathed life into the Irish’s hopes, sneaking in from behind to poke the ensuing inbound pass away from Wichita State’s Austin Reaves and set up a Colson layup that trimmed the Shockers’ lead to one.
The margin was still one with 3.3 seconds remaining and Notre Dame’s Rex Pflueger inbounding the ball underneath the Wichita State basket. Irish big men Martinas Geben set a pair of screens for Farrell and T.J. Gibbs and then cut hard to the basket, caught Pflueger’s inbound pass and drew a hard foul from Shaq Morris just before he was about to score a go-ahead layup.
Geben’s first three bounced high off the back rim and in. Tie game. His second one was less dramatic. The Irish led. Wichita State’s Landry Shamet could not get a shot off on the ensuing length-of-the-floor inbound attempt, and Notre Dame celebrated an improbable victory.
A Maui Invitational championship is an early sign that Notre Dame will contend for a fourth straight top-five ACC finish despite again losing two stalwarts from the previous season. Whether it’s Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton, Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste or V.J. Beachem and Steve Vasturia, the Irish continue to find a way to entrench themselves in the upper tier of college basketball’s most star-studded league.
Bringing back Farrell and Colson this season ensured Notre Dame would have a heady point guard and an all-conference big man to build around. Colson delivered an impressive 25 points and 11 rebounds against Wichita State against the Irish, while Farrell made up for tallying more turnovers than assists by adding 15 points
The key for Notre Dame will be the emergence of other consistent scorers to lighten the load on Farrell and Colson. Gibbs has been lights-out from the perimeter so far this season and freshman wing D.J. Harvey has found a way to make an impact, but on Wednesday it was Gebet who made the biggest difference with 12 points including the key free throws.
While Wichita State will be disappointed not to leave with a trophy after leading for so much of Wednesday night’s game, the Shockers shouldn’t hang their head. They outplayed Notre Dame for most of the game despite the absence of Markis McDuffie, a high-scoring swingman projected to be Wichita State’s second best player this season.
The outside shooting of Zach Brown, the energy of Morris and Rashard Kelly and the poised mid-range game of Landry Shamet kept Wichita State in front for most of Wednesday’s game.
Only a brilliant sequence from Notre Dame prevented the Shockers from claiming this year’s Maui title.