Notre Dame Basketball Report: Young Irish Growing in Defeat

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

John Mooney

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.

Prentiss Hubb

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.

D.J. Harvey

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.

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  1. Like Jack and the Beanstalk, the growth, after today’s defenestration by the Cavaliers, may warrant a call to the
    Guiness Book of World Records.

    Mike “Excuses” Brey has bamboozled people. How young are the Irish?

    Specifically what percentage of

    have been garnered by Upperclassmen?

    What is next year’s excuse (as no doubt Brey’s Excuse Factory is already busy at the ’19-20 editiion of excuses)
    “Yes it is a basketball school, but a Woman’s basketball school>”

    Somewhere I hear the echo of Daniel Patrick Moynihan: “The soft tyranny of low expectations”

    Butler, a commuter school, has been to the Final Four TWICE during Brey’s ALLEGED tenure.

    Notre Dame has not.

    Quod erat demonstradum

    1. WOW somebody spent their Saturday expecting a miracle win against VIRGINIA!! 4 players out 7 man team made up of freshman and 1 year starters and your expecting what ; FINAL FOUR, NCAA tournament, NIT? C’MON this team has suffered 2 season ending injuries a transfer and 4 players who are basically freshman!! If you think it’s hard to get the top kids to commit for football, it’s nearly impossible for b-ball!! BREY has done a great job for the IRISH!!!!

      1. I actually saw this happen, in a galaxy far away, at a Digger Phelps practice at Notre Dame, during Nixon’s second term.
        Phelps had some interesting coaching chicanery shtick, and he would regularly set up his players to teach a lesson.

        The first team was on offense, and Dwight Clay was running the play. Something went wrong on the play, and Phelps would or could not let the crisis go unexploited. He started verbally haranguing the players and finally, Dwight Clay, who was a joy to watch both on and off the court, offered some flimsy excuse.

        The trap had been baited and entered and Phelps let it loose. “That’s the problem, Dwight! you’re quick with the excuses but not at running the play, You know Dwight, we’re LEADING THE NATION IN EXCUSES. I just wish we were leading in wins or fewest turnovers.!!!” Point made.

        But that was in the early 70’s. True then and true now.

        Notre Dame basketball leads the nation in excuses.

        Again, the soft tyranny of low expectations.

    1. Yeah, I’m pretty down on this year for sure. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was no post-season, including NIT. But they aren’t getting routed which is good. They are competitive. With a little more experience next year things can definitely swing the other direction. I think during the summer Brey should do something similar to what they did in 2014 I think it was when they spent some time in the summer together as a group. That ended up being a special season, with the ACC Championship and literally one play from knocking of UK (I still believe had they beat UK they were potentially on their way to their 1st NC—that was a crushing loss).

      I do see good things for next year—if they learn from their experiences this year, play more consistently and if they can avoid any significant injuries.

  2. There is a reason they have so many open threes. They shoot less than 25% from three and 40% from two. Opponents would rather see them take threes. That will change next year when the game slows down for the younger players, they learn how to play together, and when they are better adjusted to major minutes. This year is going to be a learning experience.

  3. The Irish have the same persistent problem all season. They get some momentum, start to get close, sometimes even taking the lead, then they go ice cold. At those times they couldn’t hit a basket if it were 5 feet in diameter. They need to be able to sustain pressure if they want to start winning games. Last night against GT the same thing. They get close but then they go on a cold spell that leads to a loss.

    John Mooney is their only consistent player right now. Outside of him it’s wildly inconsistent. One player will step up, then be a total nonfactor in the next game. It’s not a recipe for success.

    At this point my guess is ND will likely struggle the rest of the year. A losing ACC record is looking more likely if they continue down this track. I doubt there will be any post-season for the Irish, even in the NIT at this point. Disappointing because they aren’t getting crushed. They are losing close game. But they just haven’t found a way to get over the hump.

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