Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Improving But Lose Vital Cog

Just three games remain on the schedule for the 2018 portion of Notre Dame’s basketball season, with the results largely delivering what was expected. A 7-3 start for a team that’s been forced to replace major portions of their lineup at least holds the hope that the growing pains that are part of this rebuilding campaign have diminished.

The Irish had just one game on the schedule last week, but it was something of a milestone since they were able to win away from South Bend after dropping their first two efforts. In each of those earlier efforts, fades down the stretch were costly, something that was avoided in their victory in the annual Crossroads Classic.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review

That clash against the Purdue Boilermakers wasn’t necessarily in unfriendly territory given the neutral Indianapolis locale. However, the need to win away from the rabid fans at Purcell Pavillion needed an official starting point and was accomplished in the 88-80 win on Saturday afternoon. However, the win ended up coming with a devastating price attached to that final score.

The reason is because the year for senior Rex Pflueger came to an abrupt end after he left the game with 5:36 left in the game following an awkward landing near the basket. The concern for the Notre Dame faithful ramped up even more when Pflueger immediately grabbed his knee in pain and had to be helped off the court, with a season-ending ACL tear becoming the ultimate diagnosis.

Pflueger had contributed seven points and served as the key playmaker by dishing out 10 assists prior to his departure. During the first half, the Irish applied the clamps to Purdue’s offense by holding them to 33 percent shooting from the field and 29 points on the scoreboard. Taking a 36-29 lead into halftime, Notre Dame maintained control of the game with a balanced scoring attack and with Pflueger handing out seven of his assists.

Coming out of the break, the Irish were able to hold onto the lead, never allowing it to get under four points. After taking a 66-51 lead with 7:37 left, Notre Dame withstood a late surge that chipped away at that double-digit margin. Holding a slim 71-64 advantage with 2:33 to go, the Irish then effectively delivered the back-breaker by answering with a three-pointer to boost the lead back up to 10 points. Their final 14 points ended up coming at the foul line, with Purdue managing to keep things interesting by hitting a pair of threes.

Notre Dame Standouts of the Week

John Mooney

Doing the major portion of his damage in the second half, Mooney finished with a team-high 21 points and six rebounds, with his clutch three-pointer giving Notre Dame enough of a cushion to hold off Purdue’s furious rally. After the break, he managed to toss in 15 points and grab five boards, with his offensive surge directly connected to his success beyond the arc that included two other three-pointers.

D.J. Harvey

Finishing with 19 points and five rebounds, Harvey also flourished during the second half by scoring 12 and hauling down three shots off the glass. He hit two three-pointers in those final 20 minutes and has had multiple threes in eight of the 10 Irish games this year, an asset that’s something which can help spread the floor, especially with ACC play on the horizon.

T.J. Gibbs

Ending his afternoon with 12 points, four rebounds and three rebounds, Gibbs struggled all game with his shooting touch. He hit on just three of his 11 shots from the field and drew a blank on all six attempts from beyond the arc. The hope is that he can shake off a slump that;s seen him connect at just a 34 percent rate on field goal attempts.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

After three games away from South Bend, the Irish return to Purcell Pavilion for their final two games before Christmas, The first of these matchups takes place on Tuesday night against the 3-8 Binghamton Bearcats, who are dealing with a three-game losing streak after dropping a 58-48 decision to Youngstown State on Saturday. This clash will only be the second time the two schools have met, with Notre Dame hoping that history repeats itself. That’s because on November 14, 2014, the Irish coasted to an 82-39 victory.

Two nights later, Notre Dame will have no such history to fall back on when they face the 7-5 Jacksonville Dolphins for the first time. Jacksonville has thus far been a streaky team that’s won seven of their last eight games after dropping their first four contests. They’re coming off a Saturday night road win against Bethune-Cookman.

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  1. Notre Dame plays all of its games away from South Bend, thank God! I don’t think there’s an auditorium that could hold all of the fans in “the bend”.

  2. Sad about Pflueger. We’ll see how the Irish respond, they still have some good tools and Pflueger was an up and down player on offense (though he did play good defense and is a good ball handler usually). It’s also always sad when a player goes down for the season and his career ends in such a way. He was probably hoping to help lead the team to a good ACC showing.

    This will probably put ND more into rebuilding as Brey will have to turn to players with less experience a lot more. They have a bright future ahead after this year with the players coming up. I think they’ll have some success and surprises this year, but I don’t see any deep ACC playoff runs and they’ll probably have difficulty getting into the NCAA Tournament this year (though I’d love to be proved wrong).

    The Lady Irish have been tearing it up, winning many of their games with UConn like margins of victories. However, I’m still bummed at their showing against UConn. But I think they are in the drivers seat for another deep tourney run. I’m sure that any chance of another NC will go through UConn, but I wouldn’t count out the Lady Irish in a rematch. UConn basically steamrolls through its conference with almost zero resistance, and I think that causes them some problems when they face real competition in the tourney and have to actually fight for some wins (esp. in later rounds).

  3. Oh yeah, Pembrook Burrows on Jacksonville Dolphins. He was a stud. But, UCLA and co. kept them from N/C. Binghamton Bearcats, well, maybe vs. ND Women’s team would be more exciting.

    1. GK GREAT memory to bring up PEMBROOK BURROWS and that old JACKSONVILLE team!! PEMBROOK was 7″0 ft and the center of the team was none other than 7″2 ARTIS GILMORE!! They were so intimidating, and looked at as the team that would dethrone UCLA!! But as always came up short to UCLA in the final game.

      1. NDCM, that was my hobby as a pimply faced teen in the sixties. I would turn on my 5 band radio and try to find college basketball games throughout the West. It was always easy to find Mountain teams like BYU. ( They were importing players from Eastern Europe way before it became fashionable) My Dads Alma Mater Saint Joseph’s in Philly liked to come out about every year to play BYU or another west coast team. Then I discovered Texas Western ( now UTEP) They were a sleeper coming out of nowhere and did real well. It was so much fun listening to these way out of the way teams and the ads from local car dealers.

      2. But the third guy on that front line was 6’10” Rod McIntyre.

        The backcourt was Vaughn Wedeking and Rex Morgan.

        The coach was Joe Williams and their nickname was the Dolphins.,

        The true measure of Wooden’s unparalelled greatness was not what he did with Alcindor/Jabbar and Walton, but what he did with the Goodrich Hazard teams in ’64 and ’65 and what he did with the Patterson/rowe/Wicks teams in the interregnum between Jabbar and Walton.

        While I generally eschew blasphemy this near the Nativity, one wonders why the only interruption in that UCLA streak was ’66 when those Miners from El Paso won it all.

        the sweetest thing about the Movie “Glory Road” is that they gave the then extant Don Haskins a cameo as a guy pum,ping gas.

      3. SO TRUE DURANKO the WICKS, PATTERSON and ROWE teams did not have the talent other UCLA squads did, but they did have the best coach by far!! THE JACKSONVILLE team of “70” and the Villanova team of “71” seemed more talented but came up short to ” THE WIZARD OF WESTWOOD” !!

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