With just one week remaining in the 2018-19 regular season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Mike Brey’s squad continues to stumble on the way to the ACC tournament. The latest instance came on Sunday in a 75-61 road loss at Louisville, which marked their fifth consecutive loss. It also guaranteed that the Irish would enter that conference tourney with a losing overall record.
Notre Dame’s 13-16 overall mark is actually much better than their three wins in their 16 ACC matchups this season. One clear indication just how bad that mark is the fact that they enter this final week 14th among the 15 teams in this brutally competitive conference.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
When the Irish took the court in Louisville, they were facing some steep odds in the effort to halt their losing streak. They had company in that department with the reeling Cardinals, who entered the clash having dropped their previous three games. Unfortunately, more of the same nagging issues surfaced over the course of the 40-minute matchup for Brey’s squad.
At the end of the first half, Notre Dame trailed by only five points at 29-24, a deficit that could have been much worse. That’s because the Irish ended up missing 12 of their first 15 shots and shot 31 percent from the field for the half. Meanwhile, the Irish’s defensive breakdowns allowed for a number of open three-pointers by the Cardinals, which were thankfully missed by the hosts.
Over the course of the second half, Notre Dame found their shooting touch by connecting on 48 percent of their shots. The problem was that Louisville was able to shut them down when it was needed, which meant that the Irish were never able to get closer than four points for the remainder of the game.
With just under 13 minutes left in the contest, a three-pointer by John Mooney reduced the Notre Dame deficit to six at 50-44. That would essentially be their best shot as the Cardinals scored 10 of the next 12 points. Another surge by the Irish got them within nine, only to watch Louisville put the game away with a 13-3 run.
Notre Dame Standout Players
Delivering a game-high 22 points against Louisville, Mooney once again paced the Irish like he’s been doing all season long. Another aspect in that performance that also continued a season-long trend was his 13 rebounds on the afternoon, giving him yet another double-double for the year. For good measure, he tacked on a trio of assists and also showed his defensive prowess with three steals.
The freshman has had an inconsistent season, but came forth against the Cardinals with his 12th double-digit scoring performance by collecting 16 points. He led the Irish from beyond the arc by draining four three-pointers and also paced the team when it came to ballhandling, handing out six assists. His defense also resulted in a pair of steals.
Gibbs was able to bounce back after a miserable game at Florida State on Monday night, scoring 11 points and dishing out a pair of assists. That four-point performance against the Seminoles stopped a four-game stretch in which he had averaged just under 20 points per game, so Gibbs’ contributions down the stretch will be badly needed in order to have any hope of extending the season.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
The final home game of the season takes place on Wednesday night, when Notre Dame hosts the Clemson Tigers. The Irish have won five of the six meetings of a series that only began after Notre Dame joined the ACC. Last season marked the first time that Clemson had come away with a victory, winning 67-58 on their home court. The Tigers enter the week with a 17-12 overall mark and a 7-9 record within the conference.
The regular season finale takes place on the road against the Pitt Panthers, the lone team with a worse conference mark than the Irish at 2-14. This rivalry dates back decades, with Notre Dame having won the last three battles, the last of which came in the first round of last year’s ACC tournament.
While wins in both games are certainly possible, wins in at least one of the contests is an absolute necessity. The Irish need some sort of momentum as they enter the conference tourney that gets underway on March 12 in Charlotte.