The game was close throughout, but the Notre Dame basketball team utilized a strong finish to beat Duquesne Tuesday night.
Notre Dame basketball fans were in shock with the news of Elijah Burns announcing that he’s stepping away from the program and transferring. With that news coming out in the morning, the Irish had business to take care of that night against their best opponent to date, Duquesne.
It was only natural that John Mooney, one of the players sharing minutes with Burns, made his first jumper of the night. This type of news wasn’t going to shake Notre Dame and they made that statement from the start.
Opening the game making 7 of their first 11 shots, the Irish played their best stretch of basketball during this short season rolling out to a 19-12 lead.
While Mike Brey is highly regarded around college basketball, he would not out-coach this opponent easily on this night. Needless to say, Brey’s jacket didn’t last long in this one.
Keith Dambrat, who formerly coached LeBron James in high school, looked at Notre Dame’s young team and the early success they were finding against his team. His response: press harder and give the ball handler fits. Dambrat wanted to frustrate the Irish and that’s what he did as Notre Dame failed to post a field goal in their final six attempts of the half.
That frustration carried over to the second half, as the Irish committed a handful of offensive fouls and even tallied a technical.
What once looked like smooth sailing became a dogfight. Duquesne’s ten-point run tied the game up at 38.
Ready for the fight, the Irish came back out to play.
The shooting never quite got back to where it was directly following the tip, but Notre Dame finished the game just as well as they started, if not better.
TJ Gibbs made an athletic play to run down a loose ball and convert at the other end to give the Irish some key momentum late in the game. The energy from that play quickly translated to the defensive side of the ball, as the Irish locked in down the stretch.
Notre Dame not only looked comfortable–something they have only accomplished a few times this season–but they were in control and knew it.
Duquesne missed their next six shots as the Irish jumped on the ball and made things difficult. The Dukes’ frustration turned into fouls on the other side fueling a 13-0 run for the Irish take over.
The first half might have been the Prentiss Hubb show, but the second half was all Mooney who came up huge with his extended minutes. 16-points, ten rebounds and two blocks from the big man led the Irish to their 67-56 win while improving to 4-1.