Notre Dame Basketball Report: Irish Kick Off 2020 On High Note

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.

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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

John Mooney

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.

Prentiss Hubb

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.

T.J.Gibbs

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.

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4 comments

  1. martin 1 month ago

    Fatigue cost them the NC State game. Why didn’t Djogo play even a minute? Brey has managed the roster horribly for several years now dating back to when he ran Matt Ryan out of town.

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    1. Damian 1 month ago

      Yeah, Brey is an excellent X’s and O’s guy but he’s slow to change based on the personnel he had. I thought he had maybe turned a corner back in 2014 and 2015. He was going to the bench more, coaching more defense and we were an excellent 3 point and FT team. It kills me but everytime I think of that Elite 8 game against UK had we won that game I really think we were on the verge of our first NC.

      The first time I really saw Brey make a major change was when he instituted the ‘burn’ offense. That was a thing of beauty because you could tell it frustrated opposing teams. College kids don’t like watching the other team hog the ball burning clock and it gets them off their game. Brey needs to do something that dramatic I think this year to solve to scoring droughts if he wants to salvage this season.

      ND is doing ok with defense but it’s the scoring droughts I think that are the biggest problem. If there’s one thing these last 2 years I can point to leading to most of our losses is those droughts. Now, I know, every team has a scoring drought here and there—BUT 6 MINUTES. You can’t win games like that. Against Syracuse it was a less lengthy scoring drought but there it led to a closer game then it needed to be.

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  2. Damian 2 months ago

    Yet again, against NC State, the drought rears its ugly head, this time costing them the game. Up by 12 what do the Irish do. Let’s not score for over 6 minutes. NC State gets back in the game. Then Mooney fouls out and you just knew it was over.
    It’s the same problems as last year. These long scoring droughts that just kill their momentum. It happened over and over again and led to a bunch of ACC losses.
    NCAA Tournament? They’ll be lucky if they get an NIT invite. It’s so frustrating. I had high hopes for this year. I guess I should have known better since it’s many of the same players. Why would it be different?

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  3. Damian 2 months ago

    You’re a bit more optimistic than me about Irish BB this year. Maybe I was spoiled by those back to back Elite 8’s. Last year was a huge disappointment.

    One of my biggest concerns is they still go through these long scoring droughts, even in the Syracuse game. At one point they went 3+ minutes without a single score and Syracuse jumped out to a nice little lead. Luckily ND was able to chip away at that and get out with a win.

    But that’s happened a lot this season again, like last. And it causes them to lose games.

    Right now, I’m not at all confident they’ll make the Tournament. There’s a lot of games to play but anytime they go up against a good team they seem to end up on the wrong end of the final score.

    Mooney at times holds the team on his shoulders. The others are inconsistent. I find my self disappointed with Durham these last two years. He has some good flashes to be sure, but I was really hoping he with Mooney would create a potent one two, much like Connaughton and Grant a few years back, with Gibbs becoming today’s version of Demetrius Jackson. But many times it seems Mooney is the only one keeping ND in games. Pfleuger has been disappointing at times too. Sometimes he’s a total nonfactor.

    Hubb had a good game. He almost ended up on the other side of the good-bad column with that stupid foul he took stepping over that Syracuse player after he fell and got a technical–but he atoned for that with his clutch shooting towards the end.

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