BUFFALO, N.Y. – Ever the perfectionist, Notre Dame point guard Matt Farrell needed an important reminder from coach Mike Brey a day after making a few miscues.
"He was so (unhappy) about some of the turnovers. And what really got him was the free throw. He never misses important free throws," Brey said Friday about Farrell. "I was laughing with him and I said, ‘Hey, loosen up, man. We’re still playing.’"
The West Region’s fifth-seeded Irish (26-9) are still alive in the NCAA Tournament a day after surviving a first-round upset scare by hanging on for a 60-58 win over Princeton.
Brey wanted to make sure to settle Farrell as the junior prepares for a daunting challenge today, when Notre Dame faces fourth-seeded West Virginia (27-8) and its swarming defense.
"I think the biggest thing is to keep him loose," Brey said. "He’s going to throw it away some against the press. He can’t be crushed. Just get on to the next play."
A day after walking off the court with a stunned stare of disappointment, Farrell was in a far better mood Friday.
"I don’t think I was upset because we won. I’ll always be happy we won," Farrell said. "But just use that as motivation and try to get better the next day."
Although he finished hitting 6 of 9 attempts and scoring 16 points, with four assists and only three turnovers, Farrell’s frustration stemmed from what happened in the final minute.
With Notre Dame up 59-56, he missed a 12-foot jumper with 22 seconds left. After Princeton cut the lead to 59-58, Farrell then clanked the first half of a one-and-one with 11 seconds left, providing the Tigers a chance to pull ahead. Devin Cannady missed an open 3-point basket.
"Personally, I’ve got to do better," Farrell said. "The good thing about basketball is there’s always another game as long as you keep winning."
The Irish are making their third consecutive tournament appearance in large part because Farrell has adapted in his first season as a full-time starter.
Taking over after Demetrius Jackson left for the NBA, Farrell is third on the team in scoring (14.2 points) and averaging 5.4 assists versus 2.4 turnovers. He hasn’t committed four or more turnovers in his past 16 outings, a reason why the Fighting Irish entered this week having committed just 178 turnovers – the second fewest in the nation.
Farrell is coming out of an Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament in which he earned first-team conference honors by going 15 of 35 and 42 points, with 17 assists versus five turnovers over a three-game span that ended with a loss to Duke in the championship game.
"The big question mark was who’s going to handle the ball for us," said Brey in referring to Farrell replacing Jackson. "And for him to do what he’s done, I mean, it’s just a great story."