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Notre Dame Basketball

Closing Time: Notre Dame Rally Falls Short

January 22, 2020
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Notre Dame has found itself all too often resembling a Vegas casino inside Purcell Pavilion.

There’s an inability to close the doors on the opposition at home.

After leading by as many as 11 points in the opening half and briefly rallying to take a second-half lead, the Fighting Irish fell to visiting Syracuse, 84-82, Wednesday inside Purcell Pavilion.

Notre Dame has absorbed five losses by a combined 11 points --- the last two coming at home to nationally-ranked Louisville and the Orange by just five total points. The Irish had second-half leads in both affairs.

“I think the thing was, they were making some tough shots,” said Irish fifth-year senior Rex Pflueger, who closed with eight points, six assists and hit a late-game 3-pointer that kept Notre Dame within striking distance. “It sounds like a broken record this year, but you’ve got to tip your cap. …

“I think our mentality has been the whole season that we’re never out of a game.”

The Irish had lived out Pflueger’s words just moments earlier.

Down 64-51 with 13 minutes, 27 seconds left in the Atlantic Coast Conference rematch of the Irish’s earlier one-point win, Notre Dame unleashed an 18-4 scoring binge that briefly catapulted it out in front of the Orange (12-7, 5-3).

T.J. Gibbs had connected a desperation 3-pointer as the shot-clock wound down that pulled the Irish within 80-75 late in the game ---- just a few minutes after Prentiss Hubb had drilled an odds-defying triple.

“I actually thought like, ‘Jesus, maybe we get one here,’” Brey said of Hubb’s make that kept Irish hopes afloat. “We haven’t been able to close them here. You know, it’s been frustrating I think for me and our guys. Our crowd has been great, they’ve been entertaining games.

“Kids are competing, just haven’t been able to make enough plays to finish it on either end of the floor.”

Syracuse did not wilt in the face of ND’s rally and a spirited crowd as it won its fourth-straight contest and third in a row on the road. After the Irish (11-7, 2-5 ACC) seized their brief advantage, the Orange utilized a torrid 10-0 run that proved too lethal for their hosts to overcome and also connected on all 10 of their second-half free-throw attempts --- eight of the makes coming in the game’s final 43 ticks.

John Mooney, who led the Irish with 21 points and 13 boards, had tried to foul ’Cuse guard Joe Girard III with a lone second left on the clock, but play was not stopped, leaving a frustrated Mooney demonstrably tugging at his jersey.

“That was the emotions of the game; there was one second left, so I mean, I tried to foul him, but at the end of the day, there’s one second left,” Mooney said. “That’s just me being emotional, so nothing there really.”

Gibbs added 13 for the Irish while super-reserves Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski combined for 26 points.

After the two teams combined for 175 points in the Irish’s one-point win just 18 days ago, they resumed their offensive fireworks from the outset in the rematch.

Notre Dame led 15-12 after Mooney’s and-1 conversion by the first media timeout and eventually forged a 30-19 lead, sparked in large part by Nate Laszewski’s work off the bench.

The Orange, however, outscored their hosts 27-12 in the final 9:44 of the opening frame, getting Brycen Goodine’s deep 3-pointer and Elijah Hughes’ pull-up jumper from the top of the key to hold the 46-42 edge.

Hughes proved problematic throughout, torching Notre Dame for 22 points in the game’s first 22 minutes before he closed with a game-high 26. Bourama Sidibe might have been the most critical unexpected contributor for the Orange; the forward closed with a dozen points on a perfect 6-for-6 from the field --- Sidibe's first time in double digits this season against a Power-5 opponent.

“That’s about as good as we’re going to be offensively, right there,” Brey said. “We just couldn’t get enough stops. I feel for our guys. Disappointed for our guys; we keep swinging.

“But we’ve got to get a few more stops, few more defensive rebounds.”

Neither will be particularly easy to come by in Notre Dame’s next outing Saturday at Florida State. The fifth-ranked Seminoles are 16-2, including a perfect 9-0 at home, and sit just a half-game behind Louisville for first place in the ACC.

Irish Sports Daily
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