Before Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey walked off the court at Barclays Center, he let everyone know how he was feeling.
“I love Brooklyn!,” said Brey. “I love Brooklyn!”
One look at the recent record books for when the Fighting Irish come to New York City and it’s easy to see why Brey loves him some Brooklyn.
Matt Farrell led the way with 18 points for Notre Dame as they held off Northwestern long enough to come away with a gritty 70-66 victory in the championship game of the Legends Classic Tuesday night.
The confines of Barclays Center have treated Notre Dame pretty good in 2016. Back in March, the Fighting Irish advanced in the NCAA Tournament with wins over Michigan and Stephen F. Austin to reach the Elite Eight.
It was Farrell’s three-point play, with 14 seconds left, which gave Notre Dame the lead over the resilient Wildcats. 11 seconds later, Farrell sealed the deal with two clutch free throws.
After the game Farrell, a junior guard from Bridgetown, New Jersey, was named tournament MVP.
Scott Vasturia also finished with 18 points for the Fighting Irish, Bonzie Colson added 13 points.
But it was the play of Farrell, fearless at times, which brought the crowd to their feet.
“This has been blossoming since March, watching him through the summer,” Brey said afterward of Farrell. “I don’t think the staff or his teammates are shocked. There’s an edge about him, a fearlessness about him and I’m just so thrilled that he’s come out of here a really confident guy and really knows he’s got the keys to the car.”
There’s a toughness to this Notre Dame team, now 5-0, which should serve them well as their season picks up steam and heads into conference play. It just so happens that this year’s ACC Tournament will be in Brooklyn at Barclays Center, a fact which Brey is very much aware of.
“I love the fact that we’re coming back for the ACC Tournament,” Brey said. “I’m sure going to try and stir up the ghosts again in March. We’re comfortable here and I don’t want to overanalyze it.”
In the semifinal round it was Northwestern’s experience which prevailed over Shaka Smart’s young Texas team. This time it was the grit of a battle-tested Notre Dame squad which found a way to hold off the Wildcats.
“They know how to win. They’re a tough team. They’re well-coached,” said Northwestern coach Chris Collins. “I have great respect for who they are and the plays they made down the stretch. We had our chances. All that being said, we had a one-point lead and the ball with 20 seconds to go. We weren’t able to close the deal.”
Scottie Lindsey finished with 18 points for the Wildcats, they’re now 3-2 on the season.
Notre Dame was picked to finish seventh in the ACC preseason polls, however with a legitimate quartet of scorers in Farrell, Vasturia, Colson and V.J. Beachem, they have enough for another NCAA tournament run.
It’s a run that could once again start up in Brooklyn, sweet music to the ears of their head coach.