Photo by Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Fade: Notre Dame Falters Down Stretch

January 8, 2020

For more than 30 consecutive minutes across the first and second halves Wednesday night at North Carolina State, Notre Dame found itself leading the host Wolfpack --- including by a dozen points in the final frame.

The Fighting Irish couldn’t sustain their steady leads, went cold from 3-point range, saw John Mooney foul out and fell, 73-68, to N.C. State (11-4, 2-2 ACC).

In waning down the stretch, Notre Dame (10-5, 1-3) squandered its chance to win back-to-back league road games for the first time since 2017 and also failed to secure consecutive ACC wins in what would have been the first time since 2018.

The Pack outrebounded the Irish, 22-18, in the second half and shot all of their 17 free throws, converting on 13, in the final 20 minutes.

“We couldn’t get a rebound, and their physicality really hurt us in the second half,” said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.

Irish fifth-year senior captain Rex Pflueger missed the game with lingering soreness from what Brey previously termed a bone bruise, and Mooney fouled out of a tie game with 1 minute, 38 seconds left on the clock.

D.J. Funderburk hit the corresponding free throws from Mooney’s final foul, two of the eight Funderburk converted, all in the second half, and the Pack took a 68-66 lead in a game in which they would not again trail.

Markell Johnson led all scorers with 27 points, including 14 points in the game’s final 12:14 as N.C. State closed the game on an 27-12 run. Funderburk finished with 16 points and nine boards.

“Johnson is such a killer,” Brey said. “I’m disappointed for us because I thought we played well enough to escape, but when you give up second shots like that, you know, it’s going to be hard to get out of there.

“Give them credit, their physicality kind of got to us inside, and Johnson, he’s a great guard, he’s a killer. He makes plays. So, disappointing. Because we were in position. But we’ve got 16 more league games, or something like that. Get me a drink.”

Prentiss Hubb continued his offensive surge with a team-best and career-high 24 points. Mooney added yet another double-double, the 33rd of his career, with both 14 points and rebounds. T.J. Gibbs added 14 for the Irish, who got just 16 total points in a combined 84 minutes from Juwan Durham, Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski.

With Pflueger a scratch and Robby Carmody already lost for the season with a torn ACL, Notre Dame played just six players. Nik Djogo did not crack the rotation.

Notre Dame, which led by as many as nine in the opening half and on four different instances possessed a seven-point edge, led the final 15:50 of the opening half in large part because of its stout shooting from long-range and its ability to get the free-throw line. The Irish hit 6-for-7 at the stripe in the first half while the host Pack did not attempt a single free throw.

Johnson paced N.C. State with 13 first-half points, but Johnson was forced to the locker room moments before the intermission with what was later disclosed as “back spasms.”

He returned in the second half, and it ultimately helped spell doom for the Irish’s upset hopes.

Now, Notre Dame gets its first home game of the new year Saturday when No. 13 Louisville comes calling in Purcell Pavilion.

Irish Sports Daily
Final Box Score 


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