Winning in the ACC can be a difficult proposition for any team, with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finally collecting their first victory of the season in that category on Saturday. That win wasn’t without some late drama, though getting over that hurdle was an absolute necessity with more challenges facing Mike Brey and his squad during the final 15 conference games.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
The 69-66 victory over the Boston College Eagles gave the Irish a 1-2 mark in conference action and 11-5 overall, while BC dropped to 9-6 on the year and are still looking for their first ACC win. One key absence for already-depleted Notre Dame in this matchup was guard T.J Gibbs, who came down with an illness shortly before the game began. Having just six scholarship players available, including three freshman starters, fatigue nearly cost them the win.
The first half of the Irish-Eagles clash saw most of the first seven minutes serving as a back-and-forth volley of tightly-played ball. After Boston College managed to take a 12-9 lead with five straight points in 29 seconds, it was Notre Dame that answered back with 10 unanswered points to take a seven-point lead.
Neither team was especially sharp at the outset for the noontime start, especially when it came to shooting from beyond the arc. In that department, the two teams each managed to only hit a trio of long-range shots among their 27 attempts for a 22 percent success rate. When halftime arrived, the Irish held a 31-25 advantage.
Once the game resumed, BC got the margin down to three points at 36-33 during the opening two minutes, However, Notre Dame roared back with a 13-2 surge in less than four minutes to take their biggest lead at 49-35 with 14:38 to go in the contest. That was followed by the margin being chopped back down to four before the Irish bumped it back into double-digits with 8:18 left at 58-47 on a Dane Goodwin layup.
That led to a nerve-wracking conclusion that began when the Eagles embarked on a 19-7 run that gave them a 66-65 lead with just 15 seconds left. After D.J. Harvey missed a jumper, the luck of the Irish resulted in a quick BC turnover that gave Notre Dame the ball back with eight seconds left. Prentiss Hubb was then fouled and made both free throws to give the Irish the lead for good, with a desperation toss also resulting in the final two points at the line, these coming from Goodwin.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Finishing with 27 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks on the afternoon, Mooney again was a vital cog in the Irish victory since Juwan Durham was unavailable because of an injured ankle. He closed out the first 20 minutes with 10 points and six boards, then kicked it up a notch on the scoring front after intermission.
Hubb managed to replace Gibbs on the day by effectively handling different facets by closing his performance with 16 points, hauling down six rebounds, dishing five assists and also applying some defense with three steals. While he finished the game with four three-pointers, the most important of those 16 points were the final two that came at the line. With the game in the balance, he calmly sank both ends to give the Irish the lead after drawing a foul on a drive to the basket.
The big freshman made the most of his first start, even if his shooting touch was off, making just two of his 12 shots from the field. Still, his eight points and 10 rebounds were badly needed on a team that was achingly short of players, with the near double-double a step forward in his development.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
The upcoming week will see the Irish tackle the difficult task of battling a pair of Top 25 teams. Tuesday night’s road foe, the 13th-ranked North Carolina Tar Heels, are licking their wounds after getting drilled at home on Saturday by Louisville, 82-62, to fall to 12-4 on the year overall and 2-1 in the ACC. This series has long been dominated by the Tar Heels, who hold a 23-6 advantage in the all-time matchup and have won last five meetings, two of which have taken place in the postseason.
Saturday, Notre Dame returns to Purcell Pavilion for a daytime clash against the 17th-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack, which brings a 14-2 overall and 2-1 record into the week. The Wolfpack travel to face Wake Forest on Tuesday night before facing the Irish, who have won the last two battles between the two schools.