This Week in Notre Dame Basketball: Irish Face Uphill Climb For Tourney Bid

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.

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Notre Dame Standouts

John Mooney

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.

T.J. Gibbs

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.

Prentiss Hubb

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.

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2 Comments

  1. After last nights loss it’s all but finished for a Tourney bid. I can’t believe it. They lead for the entire game except for about 20 seconds, the most crucial seconds of the game and they lost.

    I think last night told the tale though. With the Irish only playing at most 7 players they get worn out. Brey is back to playing limited players. For a few years it seemed he was breaking out of that a bit. But some of the old Brey habits are starting to come back these last two years.

    I feel the worse for Mooney though. He’s a great player who deserved better. Now his last two years he didn’t even make it into the tourney, something I’m sure every CBB player dreams of. And he probably missed out on some awards because he was unlucky enough to play on a below average team.

  2. This has been a disappointing year for the Irish. I thought last year was just a blip. With Mooney, Durham and Gibbs I thought we might be on the cusp of another special year like we did when we had Grant, Connaughton and Jackson. But Mooney is the only one on the team that has played well consistently game after game. I keep harping on Durham but he’s been the biggest disappointment to me. Gibbs and Hubb have good games, but not consistently so. And Pfleuger has been disappointing to me as well. I know people will point out game changing plays he has made, and that’s true, but he’s also had a few too many games where he’s scored 5 or less points in a game. The Irish are the type of team that needs everyone to contribute to scoring.

    I really don’t see an NCAA Tournament this year. They’d have to have in impressive run in the ACC tournament coming up and probably win the last 2 regular season games. I honestly don’t see that happening.

    And like I noted yesterday I feel bad for Mooney. No NCAA tournament the last 2 years has to sting. That’s where players like Mooney can shine and impress and he won’t get that chance. He’s a player that deserves to play in the Tournament.

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