Photo by Adam Richins
Notre Dame Basketball

Just In Time: Gibbs, Irish stun BC

February 26, 2020
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The improbable ride continues for Notre Dame.

Down as many as nine points in the second half, the Fighting Irish got a floating leaner from T.J. Gibbs inside the final second to stun host Boston College, 62-61, Wednesday night at the Conte Forum on the Boston College campus.

“I mean, it’s all my teammates,” Gibbs told the ACC Network after the game. “Each time we come into a huddle after a miss, all the guys are (saying) ‘Next shot.’ encouraging me. When you have guys like that, it makes it so much easier to flush and it doesn’t feel like pressure because I know at the end of the day these guys still love me and are going to have my back.”

But Gibbs’ heroics --- with .1 seconds left on the game clock --- kept Notre Dame from seeing its resuscitated NCAA Tournament hopes from being flushed.

“I’m really proud of our group for how we’ve grown,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “We couldn’t win games like this or the North Carolina game at the buzzer last Monday in early January. We’ve got a poise about us, and our seniors are leading us, Gibbs and (John) Mooney and (Rex) Pflueger.”

It marked the seventh win in nine games for Notre Dame, which improved to 18-10 overall and 9-8 in league play. The Fighting Irish had languished near the bottom of the Atlantic Coast Conference standings, 2-6, after a one-point loss at Florida State on January 25.

After an early 10-0 run in the game’s initial stages resulted in a 16-12 lead, the Fighting Irish trailed for more than 33 minutes of game clock.

Mooney kept the Irish close in the first half, with 17 points and rebounds, before he finished with his 23rd double-double of the season and 44th of his career with game highs of 22 points and 12 boards.

“It’s all about staying focused, staying locked in and getting to 1-0,” Mooney said on the ACC Network.

Down 10 just before the break, Notre Dame seemed to get the spark it needed when fifth-year senior Pflueger stole the Boston College in-bounds pass and launched a 3-pointer off one foot from halfcourt that banked in for an 41-34 deficit.

“That’s a new play we ran right before the half, where we steal the ball and throw it off the backboard,” Brey said. “You know, it worked. When you see something like that happen, you do think the basketball gods are with you a little bit, and they were tonight. Our zone was great, in the second half, we played all zone because they’re hard to guard in their man-to-man stuff.”

Still, the Eagles --- who had nipped ND by a single point on December 7 in Purcell Pavilion --- did not easily succumb in the second half. They hit 9 3-pointers in this game --- giving them 20 in two contests against the Irish --- but cooled considerably from distance as Notre Dame adjusted its second-half defense to better pressure shooters on the perimeter.

Six of Boston College’s first 13 field goals were 3s, and the Eagles (13-16, 7-11 ACC) hit on 6-for-12 from distance in the first half, but they finished just 9-for-30.

Notre Dame’s defense allowed 41 first-half points on 16 made field goals; it allowed just 20 second-half points on eight buckets.

That improved defense helped the Irish overcome an uncharacteristically poor evening of caring for the ball, as they committed 11 turnovers and had just 11 assists.

Notre Dame got just 11 combined points from Pflueger, Juwan Durham and Dane Goodwin in the game and were outrebounded by one, 36-35. Yet the Irish shot 10 free throws to the Eagles’ five, and Notre Dame converted on seven.

“We’ll take it any way we can get it,” Brey said. “It was one of them ugly ones, and I think a lot of that is how Boston College defends. They’re really hard to score on.”

The Fighting Irish will try for more ACC road-win Saturday when they visit Wake Forest, which stunned Duke, 113-101, Tuesday night in triple-overtime. Notre Dame then returns home for its final two regular-season games of the season, next Wednesday against No. 6 Florida State and March 7 against Virginia Tech.

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