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Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Keep 'Foot on Necks,' Stomp UCLA

December 14, 2019
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Last man off the court for either team in pre-game warmups, T.J. Gibbs ensured Notre Dame got off to a fast start inside Purcell Pavilion against historic rival UCLA.

In a game in which the Fighting Irish led for 39 minutes, Gibbs’ sophomore backcourt mate, Prentiss Hubb, helped ensure nothing was left to chance for Notre Dame.

More importantly, no payback opportunity would be squandered.

“Well, I think in the locker room at halftime, we just kept preaching we have to keep our foot on their necks; we can’t give them any hope,” Hubb said. “Because they are a good team, and if we give them that sort of hope … especially last year, last year we did that a lot. Went in at halftime all excited, and let a team come back and beat us.

“But this year we have to keep our foot on the gas pedals and not let a team have hope, especially when we’re up.”

Gibbs, Hubb and sixth-man extraordinaire Dane Goodwin put their feet down from downtown for the Irish, combining for 12 3-pointers and 51 total points in Notre Dame’s wire-to-wire, 75-61 triumph against the Bruins in the series’ 50th all-time meeting. It helped avenge the Irish’s 65-62 loss at UCLA last season when the Bruins won at the buzzer on Kris Wilkes’ 3-pointer.

“I told them after, I said, ‘Rex (Pflueger) can go home for Christmas now, with this win,’” ND coach Mike Brey said. “He can actually go home.

“But T.J. has got us started in games. He has made 3s early to kind of get our crowd in it and help us go. And then I thought he played with great toughness the rest of the game, guarding some athletic guards and passing the ball well.”

Hubb led the Irish (8-3) with 20, Goodwin had 16 in 31 minutes and Gibbs added 15 --- pushing his three-game tally to 55 points.

John Mooney added a monster double-double, his fifth in a row, with 15 rebounds and 14 points.

Gibbs hit the first two of Notre Dame’s 15 total 3s as a team --- just four days after the Irish bombed Detroit Mercy from behind the arc with 20 triples ---and the game never was tied after an early 5-all stalemate.

The Fighting Irish eventually constructed the first double-figure lead, 20-8, less than 12 minutes into the game and led by as many as 14 points in the first half.

UCLA (7-4) mounted a modest rally into the intermission, whittling a 31-17 deficit down to a halftime margin of 31-24.

Notre Dame promptly responded to open the second half with a 14-4 run, including Mooney’s and-1 conversion as well as a pair of Hubb triples.

The Irish led by 10 or more points for the final 19 minutes, 21 seconds; they built leads of as many as 18 points before Gibbs’ final free throw delivered their 14-point margin.

“It was just kind of about getting back to defending, early on in the game we were really locking in and we were focused on ‘D,’” Mooney said. “We kind of let up towards the end of the first half and it was kind of a big piece of our halftime speech was locking in again, and holding it to one-and-done. They got a little too many offensive rebounds today, but those are some big dudes and athletic guys.

“But just locking in on defense.”

UCLA got 10 points from Chris Smith, its only player in double figures, and lost for the third time in its four games away from Pauley Pavilion under first-year coach Mick Cronin.

Up next for the Fighting Irish is the Crossroads Classic next Saturday against in-state rival Indiana. Tip-off inside Bankers Life Fieldhouse, the Indianapolis home of the Pacers, is noon (ESPN).

“What a difference a week makes? What a difference a week makes! It’s a great group,” Brey said. “I love them and they want it so bad.

“I want to be good for them, because they really do; they’re amazingly coachable.”

Irish Sports Daily
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