The Notre Dame Fighting Irish entered the 2020 portion of their season on a winning note with a tight win over the Syracuse Orangemen. The victory marked the first conference win of the season for Mike Brey’s squad after two defeats, with plenty of challenges in the weeks ahead for the Irish.
Overall, Note Dame has compiled a 10-4 record, with the first of those four losses coming in an 11-point against the North Carolina in the season opener, when the Tar Heels were ranked ninth in the country. The start of December saw the Irish on the wrong end of a 72-51 blowout loss to a potent Maryland squad that’s currently ranked 12th in Division I. The other two defeats were even more painful, with a one-point loss to Boston College and two-point deficit coming at the hands of Indiana.
Yet, there’s been plenty to smile about for Notre Dame, which stumbled to a 14-19 finish. Center John Mooney has become a even more of a force in the paint than last year and enters this week with eight consecutive double-doubles and 11 on the season. The team itself is excelling the ball-handling department, leading the country with a 1.96 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
The only game on last week’s Notre Dame schedule was the aforementioned Syracuse game, with the 88-87 nail-biter resulting in the rare instance of the Irish winning consecutive games at the Carrier Dome. The last time such an event took place came in 1992, the first year of the John McLeod era.
In this game, the Irish knocked down 15 three-pointers and made the Orangemen pay when it came to committing turnovers. In the latter category, Notre Dame held a 21-9 scoring advantage over Syracuse when it came to scoring off miscues, with the Irish continuing to play smart ball by only giving up the ball nine times in the game.
When the second half began, Notre Dame trailed 40-37, but the two teams would spend much of the final 20 minutes either trading leads or deadlocked. The first Irish lead after the break came on a T.J. Gibbs with 16.09 left in the game that made it 46-44, part of a 13-4 run that briefly put Brey’s squad in control.
That abruptly changed in the span of less than two minutes when Syracuse ran off eight straight points to take a 56-53 lead. The Irish answered with 11 unanswered points of their own, bookended by a pair of Prentiss Hubb three-pointers, with both volleys setting the stage for the tense finish.
The Orangemen wasted little time in tying things back up and eventually held a series of leads, the last coming on a dunk with 1:33 left to make it 84-81. A Hubb three-pointer and his two free throws were sandwiched around a Mooney basket to provide enough cushion for the final one-point win.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Mooney scored 19 of his career-high 28 points and also grabbed 14 rebounds to once again be a central component in a Note Dame victory. While struggling at the line with four misses among his nine attempts, he did manage to also hand out two assists and also collected a steal.
Finishing with 22 points, Hubb did most of his damage from long-range by draining six three-pointers. Yet he was also the key playmaker in the contest by dishing out nine assists and, as noted, delivered on clutch shots down the stretch. Hubb also wasn’t afraid to battle fr the ball, finishing with a pair of rebounds.
Gibbs’ 21 points helped complete the trio of Irish players with 20 points or more in a game, which hadn’t happened in nearly two years. Like Hubb, Gibbs was strong from beyond the arc, matching his six three-pointers and also delivering a pair of assists. Among those long-range bombs, he only missed twice.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
With conference play now in full swing, each game for Notre Dame becomes much more important. The first of these matchups takes place on Wednesday night, when they travel to Raleigh to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack.
That’s followed by a huge Saturday afternoon battle at home against the Louisville Cardinals, who are currently ranked 13th in the country, but dropped six spots in the most recent poll. Winning this game is vital for the Irish.