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Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Battle, But Fall In Chapel Hill 76-65

November 6, 2019

For the better part of 30 minutes Wednesday night at North Carolina, Notre Dame’s season-opening tilt against the No. 9 Tar Heels was a toss-up.

Then Cole Anthony, son of former NBA star Greg Anthony and a former Irish recruit, started obliterating North Carolina rookie records.

Anthony closed with 34 points on 12-for-24 shooting and 11 rebounds in 37 minutes, both game-high marks, as the Tar Heels overpowered Notre Dame, 76-65, inside the Smith Center.

“The thing about Cole Anthony that I really respect, of course we recruited him, when he was in 10th grade, he didn't want to shoot jump shots,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey stated following the game. “He didn't have confidence in his jump shot. That's where he has made unbelievable strides.

"I thought his dagger threes were a big part of it.

Though Notre Dame forced UNC into 18 turnovers and committed just six of its own, it could not overcome the Heels’ dominance on the board – a 51-31 edge for the hosts – and the Irish’s own struggles from deep, where they hit on just nine of 31 3-point attempts.

Garrison Brooks, with 10, was the only other Tar Heel in double figures; he also added nine rebounds.

The Fighting Irish (0-1, 0-1 ACC) led 46-43 on the strength of a Prentiss Hubb driving layup with 13 minutes, 19 seconds left in the game, but North Carolina soon thereafter answered with a game-defining run.

UNC got untracked with a quick 7-0 run to seize the lead for keeps, and it pushed out to a comfortable double-digit lead with an overall 18-4 run that gave the Heels a 61-50 lead with nine minutes to play.

I love how we played,” said Brey. We came ready to battle. (Anthony) just got on one of those rolls that we've all seen on the AAU circuit. You guys just didn't see it yet, but you saw it tonight. I thought that was the difference for us." 

The Heels’ lead got as large as 16, 73-57, on Anthony’s deep trey near the four-minute mark, but Notre Dame continued to play a gritty brand of ball that valued possessions and oftentimes got wide-open looks on the offensive end.

But much as the Irish did in their opening two exhibition games, they struggled to hit on open shots in their opener. John Mooney had just 10 points on 5-for-13 shooting.

"They kept fresh bodies on him,” explained Brey. “You can get him low post touches and they loaded up on him. They have some size and strength that can come at him a little bit.

"I thought he did a good job of finding open people because they were aware of him. Those open guys for us to escape, you have to make some more of those." 

The Irish were paced by a dynamic performance from the backcourt duo of Hubb and T.J. Gibbs, who combined for 41 of the team’s 65 points. Hubb’s 22 points came on eight of 17 shooting, including five of nine from distance; Gibbs scored 19 on six-for-12 shooting, including four 3-pointers.

Notre Dame was in danger early of getting blown out, down 13-4 just eight minutes into the game and having missed its first five field-goal attempts.

Still, the Irish steadied themselves. Mooney hit back-to-back buckets, and Juwan Durham had an offensive putback for a dunk that energized the Irish. Notre Dame trailed 19-12 at the under-eight timeout, but it closed the half on an 19-11 run for a 31-30 lead at the intermission.

“I love my team,” fifth-year senior Rex Pflueger, who made his first start since last January after coming back from injury, tweeted after the game. “Say what you want about me, but proud of my brothers and how they competed.”

Pflueger played 22 minutes, notching a point, a rebound, an assist and a turnover.

Though Notre Dame played its bench players for a combined 59 minutes, it got just 11 points from the quartet on four-for-19 shooting from the floor.

"For us to beat these teams, we had some great look and we gotta make more of them to beat a team like that,” said Brey. “We had great looks. We had 16 assists. We moved it, but we're going to have to make more from out there to escape. 

"We're disappointed. We thought we could sneak into town and steal one. They have new faces. We're kind of growing up and getting healthier.  

“Certainly, a lot of respect for North Carolina and Cole is fabulous." 

After being part of the ACC’s nearly league-wide opening two days of conference matchups, Notre Dame makes its home debut Saturday inside Purcell Pavilion at noon against Robert Morris as part of the 2019 Men Against Breast Cancer Invitational.

Irish Sports Daily
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