SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey figured it would be tough to beat North Carolina State without All-American Bonzie Colson. Then when his team lost point guard Matt Farrell with an ankle sprain before halftime Wednesday he got a little more anxious.
But Brey’s Irish had other ideas on the night they made their coach Notre Dame’s all-time leader in men’s basketball victories with 394 thanks to an 88-58 Atlantic Coast Conference triumph over the Wolfpack.
“Coach told us before the game to stay in character and do what we do,” said sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs, who scored a game-high 22 points and added seven rebounds and five assists. Three other players finished in double figures as the Irish rallied around the losses of Colson, who will have surgery Thursday for a broken left foot, and Farrell, who was orchestrating the Irish (12-3, 2-0 ACC) before falling hard and spraining his left ankle so badly that he is doubtful for Saturday’s league game at Syracuse.
“What a way to get to 394 and 2-0 (in the ACC),” Brey said after accepting a postgame passing-of-the-torch basketball from former Irish coach Digger Phelps, who held the record previously.
“When I think back about the record-breaking game I will think about losing Bonzie Colson the day before and losing Matt Farrell hallway through the game,” Brey said. “Our group just really responded. I couldn’t have been prouder.”
Freshman D.J. Harvey, who had been struggling off the bench in recent weeks, started in Colson’s place and had a career-high 17 points. Junior guard Rex Pflueger had 16 points and Martinas Geben 10 with a game-high 13 rebounds as Brey used a nine-man rotation to wear down the Wolfpack (10-5, 0-2).
“I thought they came out with incredible passion,” N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts said outside the locker room. “A lot of times when you lose a good player like Colson, somebody has to step up, and I didn’t think we did a great job matching their energy, especially at their home place.”
Harvey scored 13 points as Notre Dame took a 48-36 halftime lead thanks to 61.3 percent (19 of 31) shooting, including 9 of 18 from beyond the arc.
“I was coming off a rough couple of games but the guys just picked me up the whole time,” Harvey said.
“Coach just told us to play hard and have fun,” Pflueger said.
Gibbs had 11 points in the first 20 minutes as Notre Dame overcame the loss of Farrell, who had nine points with three 3-pointers, four assists and two of the team’s eight first-half steals before a hard fall with 5:09 left.
“At halftime, we talked about coming out with great energy, but they did a tremendous job,” Keatts added. “They won early hustle plays, they got on the floor, they got to the free-throw line, they made shots.”
The Wolfpack went 5:42 without a point at the end of the first half and the beginning of the second, and the Irish eventually used a 17-2 run to start the second half and pulled away to a 65-38 lead.
Allerik Freeman led N.C. State with 13 points and Lennard Freeman had 10.
THE BIG PICTURE
N.C. State: The Pack returns home after an 0-2 road trip that started with a 78-62 loss at Clemson last Saturday. Keatts’ team was its own worst enemy with nine turnovers in the first half and being outscored 17-2 by the Irish to start the second half. Things will have to clean up in a hurry as No. 2 Duke comes in Saturday night and is followed by Clemson Jan. 11.
“It wasn’t one of our better performances,” Keatts said. “We didn’t shoot the ball well from behind the arc. In order for us to be successful, we’ve got to have everybody on the same page every night, and surely tonight, we didn’t (even) have one or two guys playing well.”
Notre Dame: The Irish played their first game without senior All-American Bonzie Colson and his double-double averages of 21.4 points and 10.4 rebounds that will be missing for eight weeks. But Brey got inspired performances using a nine-man rotation.
“Everyone has to step up,” Martinas Geben said. “We had the idea that tonight it was for Bonz and coach Brey.”
Brey was particularly happy with the performance of 6-foot-7 graduate forward Austin Torres, who played 16 minutes and had five points, four rebounds and two steals.
“You’re going to see more of him,” Brey said.
Notre Dame shot 61.3 percent in the first half (19 of 31) but cooled off to 51.8 percent (29 of 56) for the game. The Irish defense, meanwhile, held the Wolfpack to 26.7 percent (8 of 30) in the second half and 36.7 percent (22 of 60) for the game.
From beyond the 3-point arc, Notre Dame finished 44 percent after hitting 9 of 18 in the first half. N.C. State hit just 33.3 percent of its 3-point shots, including just 2 of 11 (18.2 percent) in the second half. Notre Dame outrebounded N.C. State 41-30, forced 15 turnovers, had nine steals and 20 assists.
N.C. State: Hosts No. 2 Duke Saturday.
Notre Dame: Visits Syracuse Saturday.