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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Notre Dame coach Mike Brey has been impressed with the play of T.J. Gibbs and Rex Pflueger since Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson were injured.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018 1:00 am

Irish guards pick up slack

Gibbs, Pflueger stepping up for sidelined stars

JOHN FINERAN Associated Press

SOUTH BEND – Notre Dame coach Mike Brey likes how his team has responded to injuries for Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell.

It’s easy to see why.

The Irish won 51-49 at Syracuse on Saturday to stay perfect in the Atlantic Coast Conference. They have won five in a row and six of seven heading into tonight’s game at Georgia Tech.

“We had a lot of doubters and people were counting us out. But we have a bunch of talent here,” sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs said. “This team is great. I love these guys.”

The 6-foot-6 Colson, a preseason All-America selection, had surgery Thursday for a broken left foot. Farrell, a senior point guard who is averaging 15.9 points, sprained his left ankle during Wednesday night’s 88-58 victory against North Carolina State.

With Colson and Farrell out for Notre Dame (13-3, 3-0), Gibbs and Rex Pflueger have stepped up.

“Our two guards have been men running this thing,” Brey said.

The 6-foot-3 Gibbs had 22 points, seven rebounds and five assists in the victory over the Wolfpack. He scored 18 points against the Orange, helping the Irish escape the Carrier Dome with the win despite shooting 30.4 percent (17 for 56) from the field.

Gibbs’ production earned him the ACC player of the week honor Monday.

“I don’t think I deserve it so much as the guys who have stepped up next to me,” said Gibbs, a high school All-American at Seton Hall Prep in West Orange, New Jersey. “It means a lot, but it means a lot to this whole team.”

Gibbs missed a potential winning layup in the final seconds against Syracuse, but Pflueger was there to put it in.

“I knew T.J. was going to try and avoid the block, so I got in the right position in order to get the rebound,” Pflueger said. “It comes down to hustling and looking for the ball.”

The 6-6 Pflueger finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

“As soon as Rex got his hands on it, I said we’ve won,” Brey said.

Pflueger also had 16 points, four rebounds and four assists against North Carolina State, helping Brey become Notre Dame’s all-time leader in men’s basketball victories with 394.

“This is a great opportunity for all of our players to step up, so I’m not surprised,” Pflueger said.