Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Cruise Into the Holidays

Notre Dame guard TJ Gibbs

Two more victories last week for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish now gives them a 9-3 record as they prepare for their final non-conference clash before ACC play begins. The pair of wins delivered contrasting performances, with the first victory presenting more of a challenge. That was likely due to the news of Rex Pflueger’s season-ending ACL injury just one day earlier.

Being without his senior presence for the remainder of the campaign will be difficult, especially when the level of competition picks up in just a few weeks, For the time being, getting adjusted to the new reality should be manageable because the Irish won’t have to leave the comfortable surroundings of Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review

The pall that was cast once Pflueger’s fate became known was compounded early on by Notre Dame’ struggle in dealing with Binghamton’s zone defense that allowed the visitors to score the first seven points of the contest. In the latter instance, the end result was a weak shooting performance from the field that saw Mike Brey’s squad hit on just 26 percent of their attempts. From beyond the arc, those numbers barely hit 23 percent, with the Irish managing to hit on just three of their 13 attempts, holding a 25-21 lead at the break.

That effort was a wake-up call because Notre Dame roared out of the gates to start off the second half, going on a 16-4 run to take a 16-point lead. The Irish held their largest lead at 49-31, though the Bearcats went on a 23-12 surge to make it 61-54 in favor of Notre Dame with 1:54 left. Twisting some defensive screws down the stretch allowed the Irish to emerge with a 69-56 victory.

Just 48 hours later, Notre Dame’s shooting touch was never an issue as they rolled to a 100-74 win over Jacksonville. This first-ever meeting between the two schools ended with the Irish shooting 60 percent from the field, knocking down 18 three-pointers. That success was bolstered by a season-high 24 assists.

During the first half, Notre Dame raced out to a 57-43 lead, then continued to build up that lead after the break. Holding a 74-56 lead, the Irish ended any hint of a comeback by scoring 13 unanswered points to take their largest lead of the game. One of the major positives derived from this game was the 39 points delivered from Notre Dame’s reserves.

Notre Dame Standouts of the Week

T.J. Gibbs

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Leading the scoring parade for the week, Gibbs contributed 34 points, nine assists and four rebounds and also collected a pair of steals in the rout of Jacksonville. He was also sharp in the area of long-range shooting, drilling home a trio of three-pointers against Binghamton before then draining four two nights later.

John Mooney

As the only other Notre Dame player to score in double-figures in both of last week’s games, Mooney continued his strong early season performance. In the Binghamton clash, he notched his sixth double-double of the season by tossing in 12 points and hauling down 12 boards, while also swatting away a pair of shots. Against Jacksonville, the key numbers were 16 points and seven rebounds on the night.

D.J. Harvey

Following a fairly quiet effort against Binghamton, which saw him score nine points and grab five rebounds, Harvey bounced back to lead the Irish in scoring with 19 points, cleaning the glass for five board and also dishing out three assists, That latter scoring push was aided by his shooting from beyond the arc, when he matched Gibbs with four three-pointers.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

Notre Dame will be well-rested when they take on the Coppin St. Eagles on Dec. 29, though it’s unlikely their visitors will offer too much of a challenge. That’s because they’re still looking for their first win of the season, having dropped their first 14 attempts. The most recent of those defeats came on Sunday, when they were pounded by the Houston Cougars.

One indication of how weak the Eagles are this season is the fact that none of those 14 losses have been by less than nine points, with the 97-40 defeat at Virginia on November 16 being the worst of that forgettable bunch. This contest will be only the second time the two schools have met, the last one coming four years ago, when Notre Dame coasted to a 104-67 win on November 19, 2014.

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