After three weeks of action, the 2018-19 edition of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team has sandwiched a pair of perfect weeks with a split to give them a 5-1 mark in the early going. All six have come in the familiar surroundings of South Bend, a circumstance that will be changing within the next few weeks.
Both of last week’s victories came in the wake of the sudden departure of 6-foot-9 senior forward Elijah Burns, who’s scheduled to graduate next month. The rebuilding aspect of the Irish program this season has meant that plenty of players have seen time on the court in the first six games. In Burns’ case, barely seeing the court the previous week helped him make his decision to transfer to Siena.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
Picking up their fourth win of the season required the Irish to deliver in the final 10 minutes as they held off the visiting Duquesne Dukes last Tuesday night by a score of 67-56. A 15-3 first half run gave Notre Dame the early upper hand and they led by as many as 12 before Duquesne chopped that deficit in half by intermission to give the Irish a 33-27 lead.
With just over 17 minutes left in the game, Notre Dame had boosted their lead to 10 at 38-28. It was at that point that the Dukes took barely over two minutes to tie the game up. The ensuing eight minutes of action saw each team briefly take a lead in the tight clash before the Irish settled the matter by scoring 13 unanswered points after trailing 52-51.
Notre Dame hosted long-time rival DePaul on Saturday and delivered a 95-70 pasting to the Blue Demons, with Rex Pflueger bouncing back after a slow start to score a career high 20 points. For the first 12 minutes of action, the visitors maintained a lead, but nine straight points by the Irish changed the momentum of the contest and eventually gave them a 39-36 halftime lead.
That surge went into overdrive in the first 9:12 of the second half when Notre Dame delivered the knockout blow, courtesy of a 32-10 run. Half of those points for the Irish came in the final 3:26 as they outscored their foes 16-3, which turned the remainder of the game into garbage time and offered playing time to each squad’s bench players.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Gibbs was one of two Irish players to reach double-figures in scoring for each of last week’s games. Against Duquesne, he finished with 11 points and also grabbed seven rebounds while handing out four assists. He also offered a solid defensive effort by picking up three steals. In the DePaul rout, he contributed 18 points, with his trio of three-pointers part of a Notre Dame total of 13 in that category for the game.
The newcomer also broke into double-figures for both games, tossing in 14 against Duquesne and also grabbing four boards. Four days later, he broadened his numbers by scoring 15, hauling down five rebounds and also dishing out five assists. The point guard missed his final year of high school basketball last year after blowing out his ACL.
From a scoring perspective, Mooney only had one game of note last week. That was against Duquesne, when he poured in 16 points, with a follow-up of just three points in the DePaul victory. However, in each of his games, he was a force in the paint by grabbing 10 and 11 rebounds, respectively. He also swatted away pair of shots against the Dukes before adding another block against the Blue Devils.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Only one game is on tap this week for the Irish, which takes place on Tuesday night when they host Illinois as part of the ACC-Big Ten challenge. Despite the proximity of the two schools, they’ve only met twice in the past 45 years, with one of those matchup coming in the 2003 edition of March Madness.
More recently, the two teams met in December 2015, when Notre Dame traveled to Champaign and came away with an 84-79 win. In that contest, a second half comeback from an eight-point halftime deficit gave the Irish the win.