After once again falling short against a ranked team, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish now find themselves in a nearly impossible situation as they get set to enter the ACC Tournament in Greensboro this week. The Irish effectively have to find a way to run the table at the tourney simply to garner an NCAA bid, a foreboding task that requires four victories in as many nights.
Having gone winless when it comes to defeating ranked teams this season, Notre Dame watched their last regular-season opportunity painfully slip away in the closing minutes against Florida State last Wednesday night. The Irish did manage to close things out on their official schedule with a win over Virginia Tech on Saturday, though the damage was already done. Now, a miracle surge is the only way to avoid an inevitable bid for the presumably unwanted NIT bid.
Notre Dame Basketball Week in Review
Despite holding the lead against Florida State for the vast majority of the game, Notre Dame watched another game slip away in the final minutes and saw their record against ranked teams drop to 0-6 on the season. The Irish put together an early 14-4 run and were looking strong when the first half ended, leading by a score of 42-35.
The Seminoles had their problems trying to get back into the game and found themselves trailing 61-48 midway through the second half. They eventually got going and surged into a 63-all tie with 3:22 to play, capping a 15-2 run. Two more deadlocks followed, but Prentiss Hubb’s three-pointer with 1:17 left made it 71-68 in favor of the Irish. Florida State responded with the final five points, including the game-winner with just two seconds left.
Trying to bounce back against Virginia Tech on Senior Day, Notre Dame shared the visitors’ early shooting struggles, with neither team breaking double-digits in the first eight minutes of the contest. The Irish finally put together some momentum by running off 13 unanswered points over an eight-minute span and took a 28-17 advantage into halftime.
When play resumed, the Irish held the Hokies at bay, never letting them get closer than five points over the final 20 minutes. Each time that Tech chipped away at their deficit, Notre Dame would push the lead back up as T.J. Gibbs closed out the regular season by offering up a team-high 22 points. Rex Pflueger closed out the scoring with a three-pointer and a pair of free throws in the final two minutes.
Notre Dame Standouts
Hubb had two largely divergent performances, scoring a total of 30 points on the week. He picked up 24 of those points in the heartbreaker against Florida State and also handed out six assists. Three days later, he dropped to only six points on the afternoon, but matched his assist total from the previous effort and also collected a pair of steals.
Goodwin was the lone member of the Irish to score in double figures in both games last week. Against Florida State, he tossed in 16 points, handed out a trio of assists and also forced a pair of steals. He then nearly managed to pick up a double-double in the Tech win by scoring 13 and hauling down nine boards. For good measure, he added four assists.
Mooney offered a little bit of everything against the Seminoles, but it still wasn’t enough for the win. In that clash, he had another double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds and also delivered a pair of assists. He was held to just seven points against the Hokies, but stayed aggressive on the glass with 13 rebounds and also picked up three steals.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
Having finished in a three-way tie in the ACC standings, Notre Dame enters the tournament as the seventh seed and will face the 10th-seeded Boston College Eagles on Wednesday night. Prior to this season, the Irish had dominated this series, having won the previous 13 games. For the 2019-20 campaign, each team has won on the other’s home court by a single point, with Notre Dame’s nail-biting win on February 26 coming on a buzzer-beater.
If the Irish are able to outlast the Eagles, they’ll face the second-seeded Virginia Cavaliers on Thursday night. Two years ago, higher-seeded Notre Dame defeated Virginia, 71-58 in the tournament, but the Cavaliers have otherwise dominated this series.