It wasn't like Falls was playing bad before this hot stretch. The senior captain had a stretch of six games earlier in the year of eclipsing the double-digit point mark. The best game was a 24-point effort in a victory over Army, where he shot 9-of-11 from the field. But then he hit a rough patch after this contest. He failed to score in double-digits in four of the next six games. Falls shot 17-of-52 during this cold streak, which is good for only 32 percent.
This would be the last time he would fail to contribute greatly to the scoring effort. Falls has scored 14 points or more in the past 11 contests. He's been great in wins. Falls scored 23 points in a 66-63 win over Villanova at the Joyce Center back on January 27th. He's also been productive in losses. Falls went off for 26 points in a defeat at South Florida and he's the big reason why Notre Dame didn't lose by more than six points.
It's the way he's scoring as well. Primarily stuck behind the three-point line in his first three years with the Irish, Falls has shown an ability at times to drive to the hoop and create scoring opportunities. Last season, 102 of his 129 made field goals were from behind the arc. That means 79 percent of the time when Falls hit a shot, it was from three-point land. This year, the numbers aren't drastically different. Falls still relies on the long distance basket. But 69 percent of his field goals have come from three-point range.
Falls has other statistically good numbers. He's dished out 24 more assists than turnovers. Falls is a deadeye from the free throw line, shooting a team-best 84 percent from the charity stripe. The leadership qualities cannot be measured by statistics and head coach Mike Brey compliments him often on how he's helped the young Notre Dame team through the year. The numbers and the respect he's earned over the course of four years will possibly add up to a first-team All-Big East selection when the regular season concludes.
***Syracuse's win over No. 10 Georgetown on Monday night puts a little more pressure on the Irish in the Big East standings. The Orange are tied with Notre Dame in the league race at 10-5 but lost to the Irish earlier this year 103-91 at the Carrier Dome. Remember, that was a contest that Notre Dame's Rob Kurz missed with an ankle injury. Now, the Irish will have to win it on the court. A Syracuse loss to the Hoyas would have clinched the fourth spot in the league and a bye in the Big East Tournament.
But a look at the schedule will give Notre Dame another chance to know their fate before they tip it off Saturday afternoon at Rutgers. That's because the Orange play earlier in the day at Villanova. Tip-off for the game is at 2 PM. The Irish's contest starts at 4 PM. Notre Dame will have a clear idea of what needs to be accomplished in order to earn that last bye for the conference tournament in New York City. Either way, the Irish are playing for keeps on Saturday to improve their solid NCAA Tournament resume. Currently, ESPN's Bracketolgist Joe Lunardi has Notre Dame as a sixth seed.