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Notre Dame Basketball

Golden moment: Notre Dame notches historic win at Rupp

December 12, 2020

This time, fate bounced the way of Notre Dame.

The Fighting Irish, who essentially led wire-to-wire Saturday afternoon inside storied Rupp Arena only to see Kentucky have a chance to erase a 24-point deficit with a game-winning attempt at the buzzer, watched Olivier Sarr's baseline-jumper rattle off the rim.

Final: Notre Dame 64, Kentucky 63.

Finally, all those near-misses – the most recent just this past Tuesday night at home against unbeaten Ohio State – had a missed shot go the way of Mike Brey's plucky but ever-shorthanded Irish squad for a crucial victory.

“My opening statement should be, 'Wow!', huh?,” said Brey, Notre Dame's first coach to lead his Irish squad to a win against the Wildcats inside Rupp Arena. “I'm really proud of our group. We talked about growing up and getting one of these.

“And we knew, as good as we were in the first half offensively, there's going to be a run coming. For us to hold the run off and play enough defense to escape, I'm really proud of our group and I think it's something we can build on.”

Prentiss Hubb, captain and do-everything-distributor for the Irish (2-2), scored nine points in each half, and drained what proved to be the game-winning bucket with 58 seconds to play. Hubb's jumper lifted the Irish to a 64-61 lead, and their defense stood up down the stretch for the win.

“If that ball goes, we had no business winning the game,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said postgame. “But, we fought.”

Nate Laszewski, who had 19 first-half points and led Notre Dame with 21, added nine boards and blocked a shot in 38 minutes of floor-time.

“We talked in the huddle, 'Just stay calm. We're going to win it,'” Laszewski said. “We had some guys, P-Hubb and (Cormac Ryan), made a lot of really big defensive plays and buckets for us. So I think just staying calm in the atmosphere was big for us.”

Notre Dame seemed as though it could not miss in an offensive clinic across the first 20 minutes. The Irish, who led by double figures a mere seven minutes into the game and by 10 or more points for 24 consecutive minutes of game, took a seemingly insurmountable 33-9 lead on Hubb's 3-pointer.

They still led, 48-26, at the half after the Irish shot 16-for-27 from the floor, connected on six of 11 3-point attempts and converted 10 of 11 free throws by intermission.

“We were so disappointed (Tuesday) that we couldn't finish the other night against Ohio State,” Brey said. “Even at halftime, I said, 'This will really come down to if we can get enough loose balls and defensive stops to win.'”

It was never secured until the final buzzer – which sounded a split-second before a Kentucky offensive putback that would have lifted the Wildcats (1-4) to victory.

Instead, the Irish evened their ledger at 2-2 and seized momentum – and a couple days' rest – before blue-blood program Duke – already with two early-season losses – marks the opening of ACC play Wednesday night inside Purcell Pavilion.

“As the teacher and it's early, that's my worst nightmare,” Brey said of possibly letting the game slip away – again. “We're up 22, you know a run's coming. If you can't get out of here and hold them off, what's the psyche of this group? I do think this group really has a lot of mental toughness. I wanted it so bad for them. I'm thinking as Sarr's shot is in the air, 'C'mon man! This group deserves one.'”

The Irish got six points, eight rebounds and four assists from Cormac Ryan; Dane Goodwin added nine points, three rebounds, two assists, a block, a steal and just one turnover in 39 minutes on the floor.

Sarr led the Cats with 22; Brandon Boston and Terrence Clarke each contributed 14.

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