Notre Dame Basketball Report: Challenges Await Irish in 2019

Closing out the 2018 portion of their schedule with a win, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish now begin the new year with a 10-3 record. While the record looks impressive, Mike Brey’s revamped squad has yet to tackle the string of challenges that now await them as they begin play in the always-rugged ACC.

For one thing, Notre Dame played 10 home games during the non-conference portion of their schedule, a luxury they no longer have against conference foes. The road ahead will also have to be traveled without an experienced hand like Rex Pflueger, who was lost for the season with an ACL injury two weeks ago.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review

Last week, the Irish had just one game on their docket and given the way they played for a good portion of the contest, they appeared to be looking ahead to ACC opponents. That was a mistake that was thankfully addressed before what would have been a humiliating loss became a reality.

Notre Dame jumped out to a 25-13 lead over the 0-14 Coppin State Eagles, appearing to be on their way to a comfortable victory. That mindset abruptly changed in the final seven minutes of the opening half when the Eagles closed with a 14-4 surge, making it a tight 29-27 clash in favor of the Irish.

With Coppin State making their comeback, it was Notre Dame that looked like the winless squad, making just one of the last six shots of the half from the field and committing four turnovers. Things didn’t get any better once play resumed after the break, with the Irish’s ice-cold shooting putting them in a position where they trailed 47-38 with just under 10 minutes to play.

Alarms were loud enough for the Irish to hear them at that point, which resulted in a 21-4 run and a 25-9 surge to close out the game. Yet this game will likely go into the file-and-forget category for Notre Dame, given their 28 percent shooting from the field in the second half and because they were out-rebounded during the game by a 47-38 count.

Notre Dame Standouts of the Week

T.J. Gibbs

Leading the Notre Dame offense with 15 points against the Eagles, Gibbs also dished out five assists and was one of the central aspects of the second half comeback. He did knock down a trio of three-pointers, though his shooting was a game-long struggle, connecting on just four of his 16 shots from the field. That touch is something that Gibbs needs to improve on with ACC play now on the table, considering he has a season field goal shooting average of just 35 percent.

John Mooney

Mooney did a little bit of everything against Coppin State, though he also had some issues putting the ball in the basket. he finished the game with 14 points and eight boards, while handing out three assists and also picking up a pair of steals. However, his 4-of-14 shooting from the field was in sharp contrast to his 17-of-24 contributions in that category during the previous three contests.

Dane Goodwin

The freshman continues to make his mark and could be a huge asset as the Irish seek to replace Pflueger. Goodwin ended his day with 13 points and six rebounds, the third time in th last four games that he’s scored in double-figures. In addition, he drained a pair of threes for the second game in a row, which could b a positive precursor for what lies ahead.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

The Irish don’t waste any time in playing their first game of 2019, which takes place on the road on New Year’s Day against the 10th-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. In the first of 18 straight games against ACC opponents, Notre Dame will be facing a Tech squad that they’ve beaten eight out of the last nine times. However, the Hokies will be looking for revenge after watching the Irish defeat them in last year’s conference tourney with an incredible comeback, when Notre Dame won by a score of 71-65.

On Saturday, the Syracuse Orangemen come to South Bend holding a 26-14 edge in a series that dates back to 1985. On the Irish home court, Jim Boeheim’s unit holds a 12-6 advantage, with the two teams taking turns in the last six battles at Purcell Pavillion. Two years ago, Notre Dame won by a score of 84-66.

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  1. ND should follow UCLA and let Brey go. With Pfleuger gone, this team is like a chicken with its head cut off. Time to start anew. As it stands this team will finish under .500. Bring in Alford. He would get Irish back in Final Four in no time.

  2. Today’s game was disappointing in the end. They kept it close in the first half, and even at times to start the 2nd half, but then VT poured it on and won comfortably in the end.

    One major problem I see from the Irish this year is they get hot at points, but then they go ice cold for long periods where they couldn’t hit the basket if it was the size of a bath tub. Even their FT shooting was poor, something I’m not used to in the Brey era. If they played a more balanced game start to finish, they might have had a chance. They do play pretty good defense. But those cold stretches kill them.

    I think this is going to be a long season for the Irish. If they don’t clean up some issues they’ll be lucky to get to the NIT

  3. Syracuse will not “come to South Bend” to play basketball. Maybe they will stay there overnight, but I can’t imagine why! The Purcell Pavilion is in Notre Dame, Indiana.

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