The start of 2019 and ACC play has been anything but happy for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on the court as they lost the first two of 18 conference matchups last week. That drops their overall record to 10-5 on the year and has them still searching for their first ACC victory, which Mike Brey is hoping isn’t a road map for the rest of the regular season.
In each of last week’s contests, Notre Dame had opportunities to pick up a win, but ultimately couldn’t sustain enough momentum over the course of the game. The hope is that the departure of veteran leadership from last year and the loss of Rex Pflueger can be overcome before the campaign gets desperate and ultimately lost.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week in Review
Opening up the new year in Blacksburg, VA, the Irish had problems during the opening half just maintaining possession, ending the first 20 minutes with nine turnovers. Predictably, that put Notre Dame in a hole as Tech pushed their lead into double-digits with a 28-15 advantage, However, a 13-2 run by the Irish closed to gap to just two by the half at 30-28.
Once play resumed, the Notre Dame defense fell apart as Tech was on fire from the field, connecting on 71 percent of their attempts. While that would have been bad enough, the Hokies were even deadlier from beyond the arc by making all but one of their nine three-point attempts. That scoring touch became most evident during a 28-11 run that helped seal the 81-66 Tech win.
Four days later, the Irish returned to Purcell Pavilion, but the result was the same, with the Syracuse Orangemen coming away with the 72-62 victory. Early on, Notre Dame was in sync, taking a 20-10 during the first seven minutes of action. That changed over the next five minutes, with a 12-3 Syracuse run giving them the 23-22 lead before each team traded baskets until intermission.
Disaster hit in the first four minutes of the second half when the Orangemen ran off the first nine points and never trailed again. The Irish immediately answered back with a 9-2 run, but each time they put themselves in position to take back the lead, Syracuse pushed the lead back up. With 6:17 to play, the Orangemen led 60-58 and proceeded to clinch the game with a 10-1 surge over the next five minutes.
Notre Dame Standouts of the Week
The most consistent performer for the Irish on the week, Gibbs connected for most of his 37 points in the two games by long-distance. Against Virginia Tech, he finished with 19 points and four assists, draining five three-pointers during his time on the court. He managed to top the latter twp numbers against Syracuse, when all 18 of his points came on threes, while he handed out five assists.
The only other Irish player to scoring double-figures in both games was Harvey, who tallied a combined 27 points and grabbed a total of nine boards off the glass. The more impressive performance came at Virginia Tech, when he finished with 16 points and seven rebounds. Four days later, a quieter effort of 11 points and two rebounds weren’t enough.
Mooney’s main contributions to start off 2019 came in the paint, grabbing a total of 24 rebounds in the two defeats and coming close to a pair of double-doubles. At Tech, his nine points and 10 rebounds came up short, as did a 14-point, 14-rebound effort at home against Syracuse.
Notre Dame Basketball’s Week Ahead
The Irish will have a full week to absorb their early losses and find ways to get back in the win column. They’ll have the benefit of being able to stay within the confines of Purcell Pavillion when they host the Boston College Eagles in an early game on Saturday. The Eagles also dropped their ACC opener to Virginia Tech and will be coming off another severe challenge prior to facing Notre Dame. That’s because they host fourth-ranked Virginia on Tuesday night.
Since there aren’t presently too many things on the side of the Irish right now, Brey and his team are hoping that history will be one of them. That’s because the Irish have won 15 of the last 16 meetings against BC, including the last 11 in a row. Under the ACC banner, Notre Dame has an unblemished record in this series, while the overall numbers show the Irish holding a 21-10 lead.