The frustrating specter of inconsistent play that’s marked the 2019-20 basketball season for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish once against resurfaced last week and could ultimately serve as a death knell for the NCAA postseason hopes. The Irish came away with a buzzer-beating win at Boston College, only to once again start slowly, at Wake and end up on the wrong end of the scoreboard.
With just two regular-season games left to play, Notre Dame needs to deliver a pair of victories this week in order to compete in the annual NCAA tournament. The Irish have an 18-11 overall record and are in a five-way logjam for fifth place in the ACC. Reaching 20 victories will improve Notre Dame’s chances, thought their struggles against quality teams may prove to be the issue that banishes them to competing in the NIT.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
Taking the drama of a close game to the limit, T.J. Gibbs basket with 0.1 seconds left in the game gave Notre Dame a 62-61 comeback victory against the Boston College Eagles on Wednesday night. The Eagles were in position for the win after scoring with eight seconds to play, but Prentiss Hubb’s pass to Gibbs under a relentless double-teams resulted in the game-winner.
The Eagles had led by as many as 10 points during the first half and took a 41-34 advantage into halftime. The two teams were tied at 27 when Boston College ran off 10 unanswered points. The one-point victory gained a measure of revenge for the Irish, which had seen its 13-game winning streak in the series end back on December 7, when the Eagles won 73-72.
The hope that those last-second heroics would propel Notre Dame to a win against Wake Forest never materialized as the Demon Deacons took an 11-10 lead with 13:40 left in the first half and never lost it. Wake put together a 30-13 surge that gave them a 16-point lead with under four minutes left before halftime and left the court holding a 41-30 advantage at the break.
The Irish outscored their hosts in the first five minutes to slice the deficit to two points, then tied it at 55 midway through the second half. A pair of one-point leads by Notre Dame followed, the last coming at 61-60 with just under seven minutes left. However, 10 unanswered points settled the issue, with the chief Irish problem being an inability to shut down Wake’s Olivier Sarr, who finished with 30 points and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Notre Dame Standouts
Raising his double-double total to 24 on the year, Mooney put together another strong week for the Irish. In the win at Boston College, he poured in 22 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, while also dishing out a pair of assists and picking up a pair of steals. Three days later, he tossed in 24 and hauled down 17 boards, while matching his output in assists and steals from the previous game.
While Gibbs only managed to score nine points in the win over Boston College, he did have the two most important points, which gave Notre Dame the win. He also contributed in other ways, with a pair of rebounds and assists and served as a defensive force with four steals. In the loss at Wake, he tallied 11 points and handed out two more assists.
Hubb was the main Irish playmaker for the week, in addition to contributing 19 points in the two contests. Against Boston College, he scored 10, collected six rebounded, delivered four assists and stole the ball three times from the Eagles. He added nine more points against Wake Forest and matched his assist total against BC with four.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Two victories this week helps keep alive the Irish’s hopes of a better ACC Tournament seeding and NCAA bid. However, the first challenge will be a home matchup against the seventh-ranked Florida State Seminoles on Wednesday. Back on January 25, Notre Dame nearly pulled off a shocking upset before falling by a point in Tallahassee, 85-84.
Closing out the regular season on Saturday, the Irish hosts Virginia Tech, which has a 6-12 conference record this season. The first seven meetings in this series saw Notre Dame win every contest, but Virginia Tech has won three of the last four, including last season’s 67-59 win at Notre Dame.