This Week in Notre Dame Basketball: Stumbling Irish Prepare for Tar Heels

Another painful loss of a winnable game served as the precursor for another winless week for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they fell last Wednesday night to the Virginia Cavaliers, 50-49, in overtime. On Saturday, the lingering effects of that near-miss were clearly in evidence as the Irish were routed in the second half by the Duke Blue Devils, 94-60.

The two losses drop Notre Dame to 15-10 on the season and once again put them two games under .500 in ACC play, with the number of opportunities to make any sort of late-season move dwindling. The Irish now find themselves in the middle of a dogfight among teams battling for position within the conference.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review

Whether it was dynamic defense or simply poor shooting on the part of both teams, the Wednesday night loss at Virginia saw neither team finish above 38 percent on their attempts from the field. The Irish were particularly bad in this department, ending the evening by connecting at just a clip of 32.8 percent from the field.

Those shooting efforts helped keep the first half a tightly-contested affair in which no team held more than a three-point advantage until the final minute of the opening half. With just eight seconds left in the half, T.J. Gibbs knocked down a three-pointer to give Notre Dame a 26-22 lead at the break.

The second half began with a cold spell as much of the first three minutes resulted in no scoring. Trailing by five with under seven minutes left, the Irish ran off seven unanswered points, but a Virginia basket with 27 seconds left in regulation sent the game into overtime. There, two Cavalier free throws and a jumper by Prentiss Hubb were the only points until a Virginia free throw with 2:04 left accounted for the game-winner. Notre Dame managed only three more shots, the last a Rex Plflueger long-range attempt with six seconds left that missed.

On Saturday, the absence of virtually any outside shooting doomed whatever chance that Notre Dame had against the seventh-ranked Duke Blue Devils. They made just one of their 10 attempts beyond the arc in the first half and looked to be on the verge of collapse multiple times. However, they only trailed by 10 at intermission.

That implosion took place after the teams returned to the court as Duke started things off by going on a 12-2 run to give them a 56-37 lead. An 18-7 push by the Blue Devils officially put the game on ice and gave them a 30-point advantage at 74-44, with garbage time taking up the remainder of the contest.

Notre Dame Standouts of the Week

John Mooney

Another double-double performance against Virginia was nearly good enough to spring the upset, with Mooney tossing in 11 points and grabbing 14 rebounds on the night. The disaster at Duke saw him only play 28 minutes, a situation that ended up costing him another double-double opportunity as he finished with 19 points and nine rebounds.

Juwan Durham

The senior began the week in quiet fashion by scoring just six points and hauling down three boards against Virginia. Those scoring numbers changed dramatically against Duke, with the senior scoring 21 and collecting four rebounds, numbers that fade quickly when assessing the final score. Without that point production, the end result against Duke might have been even more absurd.

Prentiss Hubb

Two games in which the sophomore combined for 18 points, seven rebounds, nine assists and four steals sound acceptable, but Hubb tallied only six in the Duke loss. That can largely be attributed to his 29 percent shooting from the field, an effort that came after he had a team-high 12 points in the overtime loss at Virginia.

Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead

The Irish now have just those six remaining regular seasons games to try and improve their chances of an NCAA berth. They’ll be at home for a Monday night contest against the North Carolina Tar Heels and stay there for a Sunday night matchup against the Miami Hurricanes.

Notre Dame began their season this year with a 76-65 loss at the hands of the Tar Heels and haven’t been able to defeat them in four years. They’ll be looking to break a seven-game losing streak in the series. The Irish haven’t fared much better against Miami, having dropped four of the last five meetings.

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