Another solid week of play for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish got them back to .500 in ACC play and gave them a 15-8 record for the 2019-20 campaign. An 80-72 win at home on Wednesday night against the Pitt Panthers was followed by a tense 61-57 road victory against the Clemson Tigers.
The wins vaulted Notre Dame into a tie for sixth place and just one game out of fourth place. The problem is that getting past that point over the remainder of the regular season is virtually impossible. That’s because Duke and Florida State are deadlocked for second place in the ACC with a 10-2 mark, with just eight regular-season games left on the schedule for the Irish.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
On Wednesday night against Pitt, a cold streak during the first half saw Notre Dame’s early six-point lead into a six-point deficit. Those struggles faded over the final 11 minutes of the first half, with the Irish taking the lead for good and closing out the first 20 minutes of action with a three-pointer by Prentiss Hubb in the closing seconds for a 42-33 lead.
During the second half, Notre Dame never let the visitors get closer than five points and boosted the lead into double-digits for a good portion of the action. An eight-minute surge by the Irish during the middle of the half saw them go on a 20-8 run to effectively end any upset hopes of the Panthers. That push began when Notre Dame ran off 11 unanswered points in less than three minutes.
In a Sunday night matchup at Clemson, Notre Dame held the early advantage, jumping out to a 12-5 advantage. They still were ahead at 17-11 with 7:43 remaining in the half when Clemson took the lead by going on a 9-2 run over the ensuing four minutes. For the remainder of the first half, the two teams traded leads, with Clemson heading to the locker rooms with a 29-27 advantage.
After play resumed, Notre Dame was in danger of watching the game slip away from them as Clemson managed to take a 38-31 lead with under 16 minutes to go in the game. However, a 19-7 run over the next 10 minutes gave the Irish the lead for good as Rex Pflueger hit a clutch three-pointer with 1:07 to go that boosted the Notre Dame lead to five points. Two John Mooney free throws with seven seconds left officially put the game in the win column.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
Now back in a double-double groove, Mooney ended his effort against Pitt with 17 points and 10 rebounds, while also offering solid defense with a pair of steals. On the road against Clemson, he notched 16 points and hauled down 11 rebounds, while also handing out three assists. The big man also showed off his shooting range against the Tigers by tallying a trio of three-pointers.
Serving as the chief deep threat against Pittsburgh, Gibbs drained five three-pointers and finished with 21 points, four assists and three rebounds. Four nights later, he then contributed 10 points and three assists to the Irish win at Clemson.
Following a quiet performance of three points, four points and four assists against Pitt, Pflueger roared to life with 18 points against Clemson. Hitting all four of his shots beyond the arc, he also grabbed four boards and dished out two assists.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Notre Dame faces a pair of stiff road challenges in the week ahead, beginning with a game on Wednesday night at Charlottesville against the Virginia Cavaliers. This series has been dominated by the Cavaliers, with the Irish managing to win just once since they joined the ACC. Last year, Virginia visited Notre Dame and came away with a 60-54 win, a defeat that began a lethal seven-game losing streak.
The Irish then travel to Durham to face the Duke Blue Devils and their Cameron Crazies in a Saturday afternoon battle that could provide a huge boost if Mike Brey’s squad springs the upset. The Blue Devils are sky-high after a dramatic overtime win against North Carolina on Saturday, which might conceivably work to the benefit of the Irish if Duke comes into the game over-confident. Yet having won only once in 10 tries in Durham, Notre Dame faces some pretty steep odds.