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Notre Dame Basketball

Senior send-off: ND wins in home finale

March 7, 2020
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This time, a double-digit, second-half lead stood the test.

Notre Dame, which had blown a 13-point lead nearly midway through the second half of Wednesday’s home loss to No. 6 Florida State, got a dynamic performance from T.J. Gibbs on senior day and quelled visiting Virginia Tech, 64-56, Saturday inside Purcell Pavilion.

A winner in eight of its last 12 Atlantic Coast Conference games, Notre Dame (19-12, 10-10) snapped a two-game losing skid and assured itself of the No. 7 seed in next week’s league tournament at the Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum.

“We’re 8-4 since January (29), we’ve had obviously two of the four losses are heartbreakers,” said ND coach Mike Brey, who can secure his 15th 20-win season in his two decades at Notre Dame with one more victory. “But I think we’re playing pretty good, and we’ll go to Greensboro and let it rip.

“What the heck?”

Gibbs and fellow seniors John Mooney and Rex Pflueger combined for 36 points, 22 rebounds and four steals in what would stand as the trio’s final home game --- unless Notre Dame should host a game in the National Invitation Tournament.

For the fifth-year senior Pflueger he won for the 104th time in his Irish career, while Gibbs and Mooney have averaged 20 wins per season – 80 – during their time as Golden Domers moving into Wednesday’s ACC Tournament opener.

The Fighting Irish took advantage pitiful first-half shooting by the Hokies (16-15, 7-13 ACC) – just 6-for-28 – and rode the hot hand of Gibbs, who finished with a game-high 22 points and 15 at the half when Notre Dame led, 28-17.

“He was on fire,” Mooney said of Gibbs, “and when T.J.’s hunting his shot, I think that’s when we’re at our best.”

Notre Dame led by as many as 15 points in the second half, first when Dane Goodwin hit a mid-range jumper for a 47-32 edge and last when Mooney snapped a 50-minute scoring drought with a 3-pointer for a 50-35 lead.

The Hokies never got closer than eight points for the game’s final 13 minutes.

“We couldn’t shoot it, didn’t shoot it very well,” VT first-year coach Mike Young said. “I’ve got really a good-shooting team.

“I think Mike’s bunch did some things that had us back on our heels a little bit.”

Goodwin, who again started the second half in place of Juwan Durham, finished with 13 points and a career-high nine boards for the Irish, who outrebounded the Hokies 44-27.

“It was definitely emotional at the beginning and just trying to figure it out,” Gibbs said. “None of us have really been through this and it’s always different to be in the line of the young guys, but to kind of be in the eyes of the older guys, this being our last (home) game, it’s definitely emotional. But at the same time, we’re on a mission and we have a lot of work to do.”

That work in the postseason could begin with a rematch against these same Hokies. If Syracuse dispatches Miami later Saturday night, the Irish and Hokies will rematch Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“I like our team, I like our group,” Brey said. “We’ve had some heartbreakers, but we love playing together. They come in, they’re coachable and let’s go down there and see what happens.”

ISD Video | Mike Brey Post-Virginia Tech

ISD Video | Gibbs, Mooney & Pflueger Post-Virginia Tech

ISD Video | Notre Dame Seniors Give Emotional Farewell Speeches

ISD Video | Senior Day

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