Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Basketball

Heroes Aplenty In Irish Rally

February 17, 2020

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Notre Dame called timeout, and ever-so-briefly Prentiss Hubb flashed back to Saturday’s nightmare inside Duke’s Cameron Indoor Stadium.

“We were down by like 15 points and we had just lost by 30,” Hubb said. “I wasn’t about to let us lose by that many points.

“It was just me being aggressive, and I think the team needs the guards, especially me and T.J. to be aggressive.”

Lose? Who said anything about a loss? Notre Dame authored a remarkable comeback against a down-but-talented North Carolina in a 77-76 win Monday night at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish trailed for more than 16 consecutive minutes in the second half before sophomore Nate Laszewski gathered Rex Pflueger’s pass off an offensive rebound and calmly drained a 3-pointer that kept alive Notre Dame’s grandest postseason aspirations.

It marked the second time this season that Laszewski had rescued the Irish from defeat by calmly sinking a 3-pointer; back on November 21 it was Laszewski’s 3 that forced overtime in an eventual 64-62 win against Toledo.

“Rex passed it to me on both of them,” Laszewski said. “Maybe it’s his passes.

“Definitely at the top (for career shots), for sure. No doubt about it.”

Once UNC took a 40-38 second-half lead on its hosts here in this ACC tilt, it led consecutively until Laszewski’s shot rang true with 2.4 seconds left in the game. During that span the Heels led by as many as 15 points and led by double digits for nearly a third of the final frame.

“I told him that’s two big ones,” Mike Brey said. “I thought his drives were great in the first half. He’s starting to drive the ball.

“But those two, Toledo and today, as soon as he caught it, there’s no hesitation. I think his percentage is better in those than in the 38-and-a-half other minutes.”

After Notre Dame started just 6-for-26 from 3-point range, it connected on 5-for-8 down the stretch in its comeback. T.J. Gibbs scored 11 of his 14 points after the half and hit three treys in the frantic rally.

The Irish completed the comeback despite hitting just six of 13 second-half free throws. Notre Dame also was dominated on the boards, where a 26-20 halftime deficit ballooned into a 47-31 finish.

Still, Notre Dame found a way --- to overcome a game-best 23 from Cole Anthony, the guy who exploded for 34 points in the Heels’ season-opening win against Notre Dame and a projected NBA Lottery pick and to close the game on an 25-10 run.

Of course, Brey had begun the preparations for this game inside the final 10 minutes of Saturday’s 34-point loss at Duke. He even had charged veteran assistant Rod Balanis with his first look at the UNC scouting report before Notre Dame had left Durham, N.C.

“We started talking about the North Carolina game, there was a timeout at 10 minutes in Cameron, we started talking about Monday,” Brey said. “When we went in the locker room after the game, I had Rod Balanis get up and go through the scouting report for Carolina. And I actually said at the under-4 timeout, ‘Who’s guarding Cole Anthony on Monday?’ and T.J. and Rex argued over that one.”

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