Struggling remains the operative word for the 2018-19 edition of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they dropped both games last week to fall to 11-7 and 1-4 within the rough ACC. What’s especially painful for Mike Brey’s squad is that both games were again winnable contests, but saw the Irish unable to avoid the cold from a field goal perspective.
A total of 13 more conference games remain on the Notre Dame regular season schedule, but the opportunity to reverse the course of this rebuilding campaign is continuing to dwindle. The task won’t get any easier considering the conference has six ranked teams that are already three games ahead of the Irish:
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
What would have been a huge road win faded away on the strength of a late run by the North Carolina Tar Heels that saw them begin a 12-1 surge that put the game away. North Carolina appeared to have a hangover from getting routed on their home court just three days earlier against Louisville, which helped the Irish head into halftime holding a 36-33 advantage. That lead came courtesy of an 11-3 push in the final 2:07 of the half.
With the two teams trading leads during the first 13 minutes after the break, Notre Dame took their final lead at 58-57 with 6:52 to go on a layup by Prentiss Hubb. The Tar Heels then held the Irish without a field goal until Hubb broke the cold spell with just 1:15 left. That reduced the deficit to eight points, but Notre Dame ran out of time. While the Irish did welcome back T.J. Gibbs, though it was clear he still wasn’t completely recovered from his illness as he scored just five points and missed eight of his nine attempts from the field.
Returning home for a Saturday afternoon contest against the 17th-ranked North Carolina State Wolfpack, the same old song was heard as the Irish were unable to sustain solid second half play and dropped a 77-73 decision. Both teams were coming off tough Tuesday night losses, but Notre Dame went cold after getting within one with 8:26 left. That killed their momentum and sent them to their fourth conference loss in five games.
The Irish only trailed by two at halftime, 37-35, thanks to a late 10-2 push that was capped by T.J. Gibbs’ three-pointer with 58 seconds left before intermission. Prior to that, North Carolina State appeared to have taken control after breaking a 19-all deadlock and going on their own 14-6 run over a five-minute span.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Continuing to serve as the most consistent and productive player on the Irish team, Mooney had a pair of performances that especially emphasized his dominance on the glass. At Chapel Hill, he contributed 16 points and grabbed a whopping 19 rebounds, while also slapping away four North Carolina shots. Back home against the Wolfpack, the point and rebound totals were reversed with 19 points and 16 boards, with a pair of blocks to his credit.
The freshman did most of his damage against North Carolina, tossing in 18 points while dishing out six assists and picking up a trio of missed shots. A quieter performance followed five days later, scoring eight, picking up four rebounds and handing out a pair of assists against North Carolina State.
The guard scored in double-figures in both games last week, starting off with a 15-point, two-rebound effort against the Tar Heels. Against the Wolfpack, he was one of four Irish players to reach the double-figure category, scoring 10 points and grabbing another five rebounds.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
The Irish head to Atlanta for a Tuesday night game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, a team they have a 6-4 edge against since joining the ACC. The problem is that almost all of that success has come at Purcell Pavillion, with Notre Dame having dropped four of their five games on Tech’s home court, including the last three matchups. The Yellow Jackets are coming a home loss to Louisville in which they were missing two of their top three scorers.
Coming back home sounds good for the Irish fortunes until the realization that their opponent on Saturday will be the Virginia Cavaliers. They entered last Saturday’s road clash at top-ranked Duke as the fourth-best team in the nation and came close to toppling the Blue Devils before losing, 72-70. Since their arrival into the conference, Notre Dame has gone winless in six tries against the Cavaliers, their lone victory coming in a 2017 conference tournament game.