Despite a strong effort by the Irish, multiple scoring droughts doomed ND to a 72-62 loss to Syracuse. The Irish started strong, and led much of the first half. Notre Dame dominated inside as the combination of Juwan Durham and John Mooney helped to unlock the Cuse 2-3 zone. Durham flushed an alley-oop to open the game. The transfer was also a weapon cutting along the baseline for lobs. Mooney had another double-double scoring 14 points to go with 14 rebounds. They limited the three Orange bigs to just two points, and fouled out two of them.
Unfortunately, the Orange guards and wings had a fantastic afternoon. Tyus Battle, Elijah Hughes, and Oshae Brissett scored 17, 22, and 19 points respectively. Syracuse had their second best game of the season behind the arc. While some of these were tough shots, quite a few were the result of late rotations by the Irish that led to wide open looks. The Irish also struggled on the glass, especially when playing zone themselves (this is an evergreen sentence). The loss drops the Irish to 0-2 in ACC play with Boston College coming to the JACC on Saturday. While the chances of an NCAA bid are pretty remote at this point, that BC game is probably a must-win for the sake of the team’s confidence.
Despite the result, there were some positives to take away from the game. The Irish started strong, looked like the better team for the early period, and raced out to a 20-10 lead. ND scored inside and out, and looked stout on defense. The problem with this team is that they’re wildly inconsistent. ND had three separate droughts of at least four minutes. As a point of comparison, Syracuse had no such droughts. The first of these allowed Cuse to cut into the early Irish lead after the hot Irish start. The Orange would take the lead late in the first half, but a nice end of half buzzer beater by Nate Laszewski put the Irish up by a point at the break. Out of the half, the Irish failed to score for the first four minutes allowing Syracuse to jump ahead by eight. Late, when ND cut the Cuse lead to two with 6:17 left in the game, the Irish wouldn’t score again until just over two minutes remained. By this point, the Orange were up by double digits and the game was all but over.
It’s probably not surprising that a team with this amount of youth and inexperience will be so inconsistent. Expect this team to look like world beaters for one segment, then forget how to play after a TV timeout. I won’t be all that surprised if they knock off a big ACC opponent when everything clicks (please be Duke), and follow it up with a loss to Pitt or BC while looking like they’ve never dribbled a basketball before. Try to remember that this whole team will be back next season (more on this below). They’ll take their lumps, but will hopefully learn something along the way.
Uneven Guard Play
TJ Gibbs seemed to find his three point shot, but the rest of the Irish backcourt struggled against Syracuse. Gibbs led the Irish with 18 points, and shot 6/13 from deep. Unfortunately, he forced a couple wild shots at the rim, and failed to get to the line. That said, if ND is to pick up some ACC wins, they’ll need Gibbs shot to stay hot. Dane Goodwin struggled for what seemed like the first time all season. The freshman made just one FG and had an unforced turnover that led to a Cuse layup. That said, Goodwin was much more effective than fellow freshman Prentiss Hubb. Hubb went scoreless in 28 minutes which included some bad misses from deep. Hubb is now shooting below 20% from behind the arc this season. Lastly, DJ Harvey had an up and down game. He scored in double figures, but had four turnovers and was fairly inefficient scoring.
Rex Coming Back
During his postgame media conference, Mike Brey announced that Rex Pflueger would be returning for a fifth-year. The senior guard tore his ACL in the win over Purdue in the Crossroads Classic last month. Academically, Pflueger will begin work on an MBA. Brey says the staff considered looking to adding a graduate transfer before Pflueger’s injury. With Pflueger eligible to return, Brey said they “found their graduate transfer.” In other transfer news, former Irish captain Elijah Burns’s waiver to play immediately at Sienna was denied. He’s appealing the decision, but it’s looking likely that he won’t play for the Saints until next season.
Blessed to announce that I will be returning next year to the University of Notre Dame to not only work towards my MBA, but to play for one of the best basketball programs in the country🍀 #LoveThee #UnfinishedBusiness pic.twitter.com/b47sgYPlpz
— Rex Pflueger (@rexpflueger) January 5, 2019