Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

King Rex: Pflueger Fuels ND Win

February 9, 2020
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Rex Pflueger talks often to his coaches and teammates.

Opposing fans? Not so much.

Notre Dame’s fifth-year senior made an exception Sunday night, once he determined early in the Fighting Irish’s game at Clemson that he had drawn their attention.

Pflueger hit all four of his 3-point attempts, including a pivotal bomb inside the final 90 seconds, and poured in a game-high 18 points --- second-most of his career in an Atlantic Coast Conference game --- to lead Notre Dame to an 61-57 win at Clemson.

“I got a couple early ones, got my confidence going,” Pflueger told the ACC Network. “But I really gotta attribute it to my team kept me going, kept telling me to shoot it. It’s anybody’s game any night with our team.

“They definitely had my name in their background and I heard my name about 30 times. When I hit a couple shots I had to let them know that I heard them.”

Having scored at least 78 points in six consecutive games, Notre Dame saw Clemson downshift the pace in this game and force the Irish into an uncharacteristic 11 turnovers --- seven in the opening half.

Pflueger, however, helped steady a Notre Dame team that got just a combined 13 points from the normally reliable backcourt duo of T.J. Gibbs and Prentiss Hubb, who entered the game having averaged a combined 26.5 points per game.

But the Irish never panicked, even when they trailed by seven in the second half.

“I don’t think so, especially with our team and depth of shooting,” Pflueger said when asked if his team had felt pressed. “We weren’t shooting the ball very well in the beginning, but that hasn’t stopped us before from shooting. And we’ve been in a lot of situations like these so far this season. I think we have a very mature team. We have the same team we had last season and I think we’re starting to find our groove a little bit.

“We know that every single ACC game is going to be a difficult one; doesn’t matter their record, doesn’t matter who it is, they’re all going to be good games. So our mentality going in is that it might be an ugly win, but we’ve gotta fight no matter what it is.”

No Irish player more embodies that team fight than Pflueger, who’s overcome both injury --- the torn ACL that cost him most of last season --- and tragedy --- the death of his mother, Rebecca, last September --- to be playing his best ball of the season for the Irish.

“I was really thrilled for him, obviously,” said ND coach Mike Brey. “He’s been through a lot personally with the mom and everything. He’s handled it like a man.

“It was neat to see his teammates grab him when he came in late from the interview. They’re so thrilled for him, because we all went through his mom’s stuff with him. And then he pushed everybody away and said, ‘Hey, man, c’mon. We’re just taking them one at a time.’ Nobody deserves it more. The kid wants it so bad, and his leadership in the huddle down the stretch, fabulous.”

NET MOVEMENT

As college basketball games unfolded on Sunday, Notre Dame entered its contest at Clemson positioned at No. 56 in the NCAA’s NET Rankings.

That reflected a three-spot jump for the Irish, a placement that should again creep closer to 50 with the release of the next set of rankings --- part of the NCAA’s formula for determining at-large NCAA Tournament bids.

Notre Dame has won four-straight games and five of its last seven in ACC play.

DOUBLE PLAY

John Mooney just keeps doing all those John Mooney things.

He’s NCAA Division I’s college basketball poster boy for double-doubles. He added another one Sunday at Clemson, the 19th of his season and 40th of his career.

Mooney finished with 16 points and 11 boards in the win, having entered the game as the leader among Power-5 conferences with 13 per game

 
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