Applying a tourniquet to at least briefly stop the bleeding of this hemorrhaging 2018-19 season, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish split their two games last week to keep them above .500 overall at 12-10. The problem remains that the path to rising with the highly-competitive ACC remains a stiff challenge, with the Irish currently saddled with a 2-7 conference mark.
Notre Dame has nine games left in the ACC to make a run, but has to deal with the reality of playing five of those contests on the road. While their one win last week came in that fashion, the caliber of the opponent in three of those games away from home will offer a much stiffer challenge to a team that’s lacking in depth.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
Last Monday, the Irish were facing their second highly-ranked team in three days, with the results much the same as the previous outing. That’s because the second-ranked Duke Blue Devils came to Purcell Pavilion and had little trouble in dispatching Notre Dame by a score of 83-61, helping to send the Irish to their fifth consecutive defeat.
The tone was set immediately as Duke scored 17 of the first 19 points and then held a lead of 26-7 midway through the first half. In what amounted to their lone challenge of the night, the Irish then outscored the Blue Devils 16-6 to get the margin under double-digits. That surge was short-lived, however, as Duke quickly ran off 10 unanswered points and took a 46-28 lead nto the half. Notre Dame would get no closer than 16 points after the break.
The unlikely presence of Nikola Djogo in the starting lineup made all the difference in the world as the Irish entered the win column with a tight 79-73 road victory over the Boston College Eagles on Saturday afternoon. Djogo had been averaging eight minutes a game prior to the starting call, but ended up scoring 21 points in 36 minutes on the court, which included a key basket in the closing moments. He entered the game having scored just 29 points all season long.
During the first half, Notre Dame experienced some ups and downs, taking an early seven-point lead before BC sliced the margin to one at 20-19 with just under seven minutes left before halftime. The Irish answered with an 11-2 run to take their biggest lead of the half and headed into intermission holding a 36-31 advantage.
Both teams held leads after the break before two free throws from Djogo with 7:58 to play gave Notre Dame the lead for good at 60-58. However, the Eagles stayed close and even got the margin down to four points with 13 seconds left after it appeared that the win had been salted away. It finally was after TJ Gibbs hit a pair of free throws with 11 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Leading the scoring parade for the week, Gibbs tallied 31 points and gave the Irish a defensive presence with six steals over the course of the matchups. He scored 12 points in the loss to Duke and appeared in danger of not even reaching that number after scoring just two points during the first half against BC. However, he unleashed a 17-point barrage after the break and ended up clinching the game at the foul line.
The freshman guard managed to reach double-figures in both contests, scoring 13 points against the Blue Devils before delivering a 16-point effort in the win over the Eagles. He also found time to dish out six assists and collect five boards in the two matchups and was effective from long-range by connecting on five of his 12 attempts from beyond the arc.
The big man continued his double-double onslaught with a 14-point, 11-rebound performance against Duke preceding his 15-point, 13-board effort against Boston College. In all but one of the nine conference games thus far, he’s reached double-double country, with only a nine-point afternoon against Virginia Tech keeping him from making it a clean sweep.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Hoping to sustain momentum, the Irish have two matchups this week beginning with a Wednesday night game at Miami. The Hurricanes have a 4-3 edge in the series since the Irish joined the ACC, though Notre Dame won the last time they traveled to South Beach, winning 67-62 on January 12, 2017.
Revenge will be on the minds of the Irish when Georgia Tech comes to Purcell Pavilion on Saturday night. The Yellow Jackets won a close 63-61 contest on January 22, though they’ve yet to win in five tries there since the two teams became conference rivals.