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Notre Dame Basketball

Faith rewarded: Brey's trust, Gibbs' floater lifts ND

February 27, 2020
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No hesitation.

No panic.

And no season-crippling defeat.

Notre Dame got a floater in the lane from senior guard T.J. Gibbs inside the final second Wednesday night and stunned Boston College, 62-61, on the Eagles’ home floor.

Boston College had moments earlier taken the lead on Jay Heath’s jumper near the free-throw line with 8 seconds on the game clock.

The Fighting Irish had a timeout, but they also had rehearsed almost this very setting countless times in practice.

Mike Brey trusted his players. They rewarded that trust.

“It’s game situations,” Brey said. “We have a rule, we know the clock stops, we practice this all the time. You look up, so you don’t have to panic, if it’s 4 (seconds) or less, we call timeout. If it’s more than 4, we’re getting it in and getting it down the floor.”

The Irish quickly inbounded the ball, Prentiss Hubb worked up-court and dribbled to the top of the point by the free-throw line. After Hubb pivoted, and John Mooney sealed his defender, Hubb flicked the ball to Gibbs, and Gibbs quickly elevated and feathered in the game-winning bucket.

“I thought Mooney got it into Hubb and we came down so poised,” Brey said. “And Hubb did a great job of not shooting a crazy one right there, and pivoted one more time. And a lot of times, the defense is in a little panic-mode, and Gibbs had a great look. I loved our poise where we just got it in, came down and T.J. made a big play.”

Though Gibbs and Hubb combined to go just 8-for-26 from the floor, including 3 of 13 from 3-point range, they delivered when it mattered most in the Irish’s season. Hubb earlier in the second half had hit a 3 that finally gave Notre Dame a lead in a game in which the Irish trailed for more than 33 minutes.

Gibbs scored six of his nine points in the second half.

“It was one of those where he’s become a really mature guard,” Brey said of Hubb. “After last year, we threw him to the wolves. He’s played a lot, he’s started a lot already. But he does have a poise about him. A great example was, I don’t think he was playing great but he drills a 3 to give us a lead.

“He’s one of those guys that be not in a great rhythm or a little frustrated but when the lights are bright, the 3 he made to give us the lead, and the poise he had, he has done that over and over again. He’s a bright-lights guy.”

REX MARKS THE SPOT

Though he had just five points, fifth-year senior guard Rex Pflueger continued to make the gritty --- and on one instance, spectacular --- plays that have the Fighting Irish back on the edge of the NCAA Tournament bubble.

With his team down 10, 41-31, near the half and the Eagles in possession of the ball, Pflueger thieved the pass near midcourt, stepped and launched a desperation heave off one foot.

Bottom! Notre Dame trailed by just seven at the half, 41-34, and had climbed within a point of the Eagles just five minutes into the second half.

“Oh, that’s a momentum play,” Brey said. “Because they were crushing us. We were holding on for dear life, they’re shooting it well, we’re not able to keep up with them and we’re not able to score. They can really guard you and athletically switch and get out on you.

“That’s what Pflueger does. You saw the block-out he had against North Carolina and the kick-out to (Nate) Laszewski. He’s tipped one in to get us to the Sweet 16 and tipped one in at Syracuse. We’re down seven but you feel like you’re tied.”

MOONEY MAGIC

John Mooney continued to be the nation’s top double-double machine amongst Power-5 conferences. Mooney’s 22 points and 12 boards, both game-high outputs, lifted him to his 23rd double-double on the season and 44th of his Notre Dame career.

Mooney now is just two double-doubles shy of matching Luke Harangody’s single-season record of 25, and his effort against the Eagles moved Mooney into a fifth-place tie with Bob Arnzen on Notre Dame’s career.

NUMBERS THAT MATTER

Notre Dame entered the game at Boston College ranked 56th in the NCAA’s NET rankings, and it had a No. 59 Basketball Percentage Index (BPI) placement. The Irish’s strength of schedule was 65th entering Wednesday’s game.

 
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