Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Back-Door Rockets

November 21, 2019
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Nate Laszewski kept the door ajar for Notre Dame Thursday night with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that ushered the game into overtime.

Rex Pflueger took the backdoor to send the Fighting Irish to victory inside Purcell Pavilion.

After Laszewski’s clutch triple from directly in front of the Notre Dame bench evened the score with Toledo at 55 at the second-half horn, Pflueger cut backside, left defender Dylan Alderson flat-footed and took T.J. Gibbs’ on-point pass for an easy layup and a 60-59 lead with 25 ticks left in the bonus session.

Another defensive stop, two more Pflueger free throws that rendered Marreon Jackson’s overtime-buzzer 3-pointer moot and Notre Dame had escaped.

Just like that, in a game in which the Irish trailed for 22 minutes, 50 seconds --- including 16:26 in the second half --- they found a way to an 64-62 overtime-win against the Rockets (3-2).

“Coach Brey subbed me in, misdirection play and told me if I have my look … step up and take it,” said Laszewski, who hit a pair of second-half treys and finished with 10 points and six boards in 24 minutes off the bench. “The same set, we tweaked it a little bit. One of our normal sets, and it worked.

“All my coaches, all my teammates. They told me I have great looks, just keep shooting.”

Laszewski knew when this ball left his hand, on an inbounds play that started with 1.5 seconds and nearly required Pflueger exhaust all five seconds to get the ball in play, that the shot was pure.

“Pretty much, yeah,” Laszewski said.

Laszewski clutch moment --- early in a season in which the sophomore had missed 19 of his first 22 from long-distance --- facilitated what Mike Brey said wasn’t even a designed play between Gibbs and Pflueger for the win.

“It was just out of our motion; that was not a called play,” Brey said. “I think two senior guards just connecting and communicating, and I can’t say enough about it.

“How about Rex Pflueger? I could care less about his shooting. He makes every play, big play, clutch play, such a winner. And it’s a key backdoor-cut just in the midst of our motion. I thought he and T.J. really were good down the stretch. And they were talking, ‘Hey, we’re going to steal it.’”

Pflueger closed with eight points, six steals, five assists and five rebounds --- without a single turnover --- in a season-high 38:41 of court-time.

The Irish (5-1) found a way to win after they trailed by seven, 52-45, with less than three minutes and trailed by five, 54-49, inside the final minute.

Back from a stomach virus that kept him out of Monday’s win against Presbyterian, John Mooney had 13 boards but just seven points on 3-for-11 shooting. Mooney had appeared to make a crucial late-game 3-pointer, but the bucket was waved off at it left Mooney’s hand after the shot clock had expired.

Notre Dame got 16 bench points from Dane Goodwin, who willed the home team back into the game with three of his four 3-pointers in the second half. Gibbs finished with 11 points and three steals --- part of the dozen Notre Dame pilfered as a team. The Irish committed just 10 turnovers to the Rockets’ 21; needed since they were beaten 44-37 on the boards.

“I gotta be honest with you, that one hurts,” said Toledo coach Tod Kowalczyk. “Unbelievably disappointed that we didn’t win the game.

“Not disappointed with our players, our preparation, how hard we played. Just felt like we gave it away.”

Brey said he had been on both sides of the ledger but credited his team’s rigorous defense down the stretch and throughout overtime, as well as its resiliency.

“I think there’s a will about this group, again,” Brey said. “And Pflueger’s the key. You look and see the stuff he does. How much we missed a winner, tough-guy. For them, this is a great reference point. No matter how bad it looks at times the rest of the year, and It will look bad, you can always go tell us, ‘What about Toledo? We were dead in the water like seven times.’

“Holy Toledo, I’ll say.”

Marreon Jackson paced the Rockets with 23 points while Willie Jackson added 11. Luke Knapke had 16 for Toledo, which made just 12 of 38 shot attempts after the half.

The Irish got only five minutes from Robby Carmody, who left with a bruised left shoulder --- the same one Carmody has had surgically repaired --- and also got just 18 minutes from starter Juwan Durham.

Notre Dame wraps up its six-game homestand Tuesday when it hosts Fairleigh Dickinson (7 p.m.).

Irish Sports Daily
Final Box Score 

 

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