NOTRE DAME, Ind. - Two exhibitions down and Mike Brey is starting to find lineup combinations to use for the long term.
Guard Matt Farrell came off the bench first Thursday for Notre Dame in an 81-56 win over Caldwell University, a Division II program out of New Jersey. He replaced Bonzie Colson, who started along with Demetrius Jackson, Steve Vasturia, V.J. Beachem and Zach Auguste.
Colson exiting signaled a shift to a smaller group with four players around Auguste roaming the perimeter. It’s a lineup Brey went back to more than once.
“We get to that lineup where we’re downshifted and we’re pretty efficient,” Brey said. “We’ve gotta keep working on efficiency when the two bigs are in. I think they’ve got to go to the offensive boards more. That’s when we have them in there early, go ahead and pound that board and get us a second shot. I think that’s the thing we have to stress with them.
“When Matt goes in you can open that floor up, when he goes in for a big. And then he handles the ball, so he takes so pressure off Demetrius. He makes shots too. He can score. He’s really a key for us.”
Farrell led the reserves with nine points and threw in five assists and two rebounds against just one turnover. He logged 25 minutes of action, which trailed only Jackson’s 31.
Beachem paced the starters with 13 points and five rebounds. Jackson and Vasturia scored 11 each while Auguste had nine points and eight rebounds. Colson also scored nine.
Vasturia scored all his points in the second half as Brey played a tighter rotation.
“I told that starting group,” Brey said. “I said, ‘I’m riding you guys for awhile.’ They were getting subbed for three halves. I said, ‘This one, you’re playing awhile, so let’s be better in the half court. Let’s be better defensively, let’s run. Don’t look over at the bench, you’re playing.’ I think Steve knew he needed to get going.
“We were better offensively in the second half in the half court. We worked more instead of take a quick one here or just playing a little too fast.”
Brey again played all 12 scholarship players in both exhibitions but expects to trim down the rotation with the regular season opener looming against St. Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 13.
Going to a smaller lineup with Farrell in the game has been a positive to this point.
“I think when we do go small like that we can be very good,” Farrell said. “I think we went on a nice little run both times we went small. That’s something I think the coaches are gonna continue to look at. We can move around, everybody is very versatile. We get good shots. It’s exciting to play with those guys in that lineup just because we can play so fast. We can get in the paint and get good shots.”
Rebounding out of that lineup is perhaps the biggest challenge. Caldwell had a 23-18 advantage at halftime on the boards. But Notre Dame bounced back in the second half, winning the rebound battle 49-38 in the end.
“I know that’s something that I’ve gotta do,” Beachem said. “I’ve gotta hit the glass because I’m considered the second big in. To at least keep my guy off the glass or get a rebound myself, that’s huge. Offensively, that gets us in our offense more if I can get the rebound and get down and push it or pass it ahead.”