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Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The Observer

Gibbs leads Notre Dame as team handles Chicago State

Before it travels to Hawaii to compete at the Maui Invitational next week, Notre Dame took care of business at home Thursday night, defeating Chicago State 105-66.

Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs led the Irish with a career-high 23 points, senior guard Matt Farrell poured in 18 and freshman forward D.J. Harvey contributed a career-high 16 points to fuel the offensive onslaught. Senior forward Bonzie Colson also put forth a complete performance, scoring 15 points and grabbing nine boards to go along with five blocks, but the star of the night was Gibbs, who emphasized that the team handled what it needed to handle Thursday night.

Zach Yim | The Observer
Irish sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs jumps for a rebound during Notre Dame’s 105-66 win over Chicago State on Thursday at Purcell Pavilion.

“Focus has been a huge key for us, and this was a great win, a great focus win,” Gibbs said. “They were switching up a lot of stuff and it was giving us a lot of new looks that we haven’t seen this year, but it was great just to get out there and get another [win] before we hit Maui.”

Unwilling to take their opponent for granted, the Irish (3-0) immediately jumped out to a 7-0 lead, highlighted by a couple of dunks from senior forward Martinas Geben. From there, Colson began to take over on both sides of the court, as AP preseason All-American scored nine points while blocking three shots to help extend Notre Dame’s lead to 30-8. Chicago State (1-3) was unable to generate any flow offensively, and the Irish continued to consistently stretch the lead thanks to some hot shooting from Gibbs, Farrell and Harvey. Gibbs, Farrell and Colson all reached double figures by halftime, and the Irish went into the locker room with a comfortable 56-29 lead.

Any chance that the Cougars felt they might have at making a comeback in the second half was squashed by Gibbs, as the New Jersey product scored eight straight points to make it 66-41 at the 15:26 mark. Gibbs finished 8-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-7 from three-point range, and will be an important key for the team this season according to Irish head coach Mike Brey.

“T.J. is really confident, and I think Matty and Bonzie have done a good job of getting him confident — continually letting him know, even back in the summer, how important he’s going to be,” Brey said. “But certainly now, with 17 pounds off him, he’s in shape enough to play those extended minutes. I thought he’d be a good shooter for us … so we just gotta continue to grow him, and I think he heads to [Hawaii] pretty confident.”

Notre Dame wore out Chicago State for the rest of the game, and relied on its bench to mostly play the latter part of the second half, giving increased minutes to players like Harvey, who finished 5-of-8 from the field and is expected to play a substantial role as a freshman for the team this season.

“He’s really a gifted guy,” Brey said. “Tonight may have been the most important for him — he gets 22 minutes, and [in his third game] he gets into a little bit of a scoring rhythm. That’s the one thing I think he can do for us — obviously he rebounds too — but it was a great night for him and he’s very important for us, and our seniors know he’s important, so they keep helping me bring him along.”

“The sky’s the limit for him,” Gibbs said of Harvey. “He’s starting to get it; it’s starting to click for him. I’m excited for him and proud of him and I just hope he keeps working and keeps getting there.”

Junior guard Fred Sims Jr. led Chicago State with 19 points and redshirt-senior guard Jelani Pruitt had 16. All in all, Notre Dame shot 62.1 percent while holding Chicago State 36.1 percent, and while spectators may focus on the offense eclipsing 100 points, Farrell, who had five steals, said the defensive effort is what really gets the team going.

“We got smart guys — we defend as a unit,” Farrell said. “We had a lot of steals today, we’re talking, we’re communicating a lot better on defense. We know we’re not a finished product, but we know how efficient we are offensively, and we think that our defense helps our offense. If we can get our defense going and we get stops, we can have a lot of fun playing.”

Up next for Notre Dame is a trip to Hawaii, as the Irish will compete in the Maui Invitational next week. The team will play tournament host Chaminade in Monday’s opening round, and either LSU or Michigan on Tuesday.