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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Advances to Round Two of the ACC Tournament

March 12, 2019
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Notre Dame struggled to close games over the past three months as the Irish finished 3-15 in ACC play, but Tuesday afternoon was a different story as they became the first No. 15 seed to win an ACC Tournament game. 

The Irish found a way to hang on after Georgia Tech cut a 20 point halftime lead to three points with 1:06 to play behind John Mooney to get a 78-71 win in the opening round of the ACC Tournament.

“I am really thrilled for my group,” stated Notre Dame basketball coach Mike Brey. “We have had a tough regular season ACC, to say the least, and for us to mentally prepare and come down here and understood we had a clean slate, I just thought we got out of the gate with such a free mind. We were flowing offensively. A little bit of the old days offensively. We've been in search of that.” 

Georgia Tech started to cut into the Irish lead with a 7-0 run to cut the Irish lead to 59-45 with 13:33 to play in the game.

Moses Wright, who scored 25 points, led the charge for Yellow Jackets. Wright scored four quick points combine with a Khalid Moore layup capped a 6-0 run in just over a minute to pull Georgia Tech within 68-59. 

Juwan Durham got an easy dunk to end the run and pushed the Irish lead back to 11. The junior forward finished with 12 points, five rebounds and four blocks in 28 minutes. 

Mooney, who finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, hit two crucial jumpers in the last four minutes to allow Notre Dame to end a 20-6 run by Georgia Tech, including one with 41 seconds to play to give the Irish a four-point lead. 

“We were moving guys in and out throughout the whole entire game,” explained Mooney. “But yeah, once you get it up there, you kind of just turn it up, face the basket, and I have shooters around me ready to shoot the ball, so it's easy to pass it to a Dane Goodwin or a Nate or TJ or Prentiss Hubb, and they're ready to catch it and fire it. Just an all-around great win.” 

Moses Wright led the Yellow Jackets with 25 points and seven rebounds. 

While offense was a struggle in the second half for the Irish, as Brey was limited to a six-man rotation due to injury, Notre Dame didn’t struggle in the first half. 

Notre Dame scored a season-high 52 points and took a commanding 20-point lead into the break as the Irish shot 58 percent from the floor and a blazing 64 percent from three-point range. 

“We haven't played a half like that all year,” stated Brey. “It was just really neat to watch us move and cut and handle the ball and score it. We are a good passing team. Like we are good with the ball. We just haven't made enough of those first ones, and we got confident -- you know, we had a good practice yesterday.

“We played 4-on-4 because I can't play 5-on-5. I don't have enough guys. We made a lot of shots in our little scrimmage, and that always helps you. Kids felt good. We're starting three freshmen. Durham is a new guy, too. For them to come out of the gate in an ACC Tournament game the way they did, I'm really proud of them because we've been searching for confidence at times the last three months.”
 
Freshman Nate Laszewski led the Irish with 14 points in the first half and was 3-for-4 from three-point range. However, as the season has gone for Notre Dame, Laszewski’s success was cut short. 

The 6-foot-10 forward took a hard foul at the end of the half and had to have assistance walking off the floor. Laszewski returned to the bench in the second half dressed, but did not return to action. 

Notre Dame believes Laszewski has a lower back bruise as X-rays were negative. 

“It's a bad bruise,” Brey said. “The X-rays were negative, thank God. They took him up and X-rayed him X-rayed him. We'll try and get him loose for tomorrow, but the group that played pretty much the whole second half may be the group that whole game.

“Chris Doherty gave us some good minutes, I think he made a shot off his forehead at the end of the shot clock, it's a thing we work on with our big guys, but Liam Nelligan, our walk-on is probably going to have to play a little bit, too.

“I hope we can get Nate loose because the Pittsburgh game and today, we've been kind of waiting on that from Nate and I was so frustrated when he went down because I think he's kind of found his game, as has Dane Goodwin, the two of them have kind of found themselves late in the year.”

Laszewski wasn’t the only freshmen putting the ball in the bucket over the first 20 minutes as classmate Dane Goodwin hit 4-for-6 shots to score nine points in the opening half, while point guard Prentiss Hubb scored seven points and dished out five assists. 

Goodwin finished with 10 points and five rebounds. Hubb ended the game with nine points, six rebounds and six assists. 

Notre Dame played just seven players on Tuesday, but all seven players scored and four were in double-figures. 

The Irish return to action in the ACC Tournament on Wednesday at 7:00 pm ET against Louisville. 

“They're really good,” Brey said of Louisville. “Chris (Mack) has done an unbelievable job in year one there. The frustrating thing about our game in Louisville two weeks ago or a week ago was I felt it would have been game situations, but we missed all kinds of free throws in the second half, and we've been a good free-throw shooting team for the year.

“We're going to have to rebound, and we're going to have to score, and you know, tonight we -- I told our guys a couple of the time-outs in the first half, we're going to score 85, we're going to score 95, and you've got to score against these guys.”

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