Shorthanded Irish Can’t Overcome Shooting Woes

When it became clear that Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell were each going to be out for an extended period of time, most Irish fans prepared for the worst. We prepared to blow the 12-point halftime lead against North Carolina State, but instead the Irish pushed the final margin to 30. We again braced ourselves for a blowout loss in the Carrier Dome, but instead the Irish pulled out a win in dramatic fashion. So Irish fans could be forgiven for holding a bit of hope headed into Wednesday night, despite our struggles at McCamish Pavilion over the last 5 years.

Unfortunately, the Irish followed Saturday’s first half script but couldn’t make the 2nd half heroics stick and the Irish fell to the Yellow Jackets 60-53. The story of the night could be copy-pasted from virtually every other game recap this year: Notre Dame dug themselves an early hole with a serious lack of offense and had to scramble for the entirety of second half, leaving themselves no margin for error. Not enough shots fell late, and the Irish return home empty handed as a result.

The Irish shot a miserable 35% from the field and were 0-11 from 3 before finally connecting on a few late in the game. The saving grace of Saturday’s miserable shooting performance, offensive rebounding, was there early, but disappeared as the Irish began to wear down in the 2nd half. And Notre Dame’s defense, also a revelation of the last few wins, was present but went missing at key moments, typically with Martinas Geben trying to grab a precious few minutes of rest.

Game Ball

The player of the night was clearly Martinas Geben, who kept the Irish in the game for most of the night with tough defense, 16 points and 9 rebounds. Unfortunately, Georgia Tech picked on Austin Torres with great success and Geben was not afforded much rest. He clearly wore down at the end, collecting only 2 points and no rebounds over the games final 12 minutes.

TJ Gibbs, fresh off an ACC POTW Award, played all 40 minutes. He did most of the heavy lifting on offense, creating off the dribble frequently. This provided mixed results as Gibbs notched 11 points on 4/12 shooting. Rex Pflueger was apparently battling illness,  and it showed – he finished with 0 points on 0/8 shooting in 35 minutes. DJ Harvey couldn’t find his stroke early and was 0/4 from the field before hitting two triples late, Elijah Burns was 0/4, and John Mooney picked up a few points of rebounds and drop passes, but also didn’t hit a jumper. And despite a recent buying spree, shares of Nik Djogo remain cheap and fairly easy to come by for at least another game, as he again looked out of sync in the flow of the offense.

Analyzing the Wreckage

Let’s start with the good news. As mentioned in the open, it could be much worse. The wins vs. NC State and Syracuse provide a decent buffer to allow the Irish to get back on track. And fight shown on the boards and on the defensive end in the last two games should give hope. The Irish just played in two locations where they consistently struggle, and especially struggle to shoot. Note that none of the last 4 ND at GT games have crossed 125 points scored, and those were good, full strength Irish teams. And it’s bad luck to have Rex get sick during Farrell’s absence, not say a week after he’s back. The sum of all of those things could/should have added up to a 2-2 or 1-3 start in conference and we successfully avoided that. We still have Boston College twice, at Wake, at NC State and home vs. Pitt left on our schedule thanks to drawing NC State, GT and BC 2x each, so wins are out there for the taking.

Conversely, any way you slice it, tonight was a big missed opportunity. This was the 2nd weakest team in the conference and likely in the top 3-4 in “easiest games remaining.” When you’re trying to scrape and claw your way to 9-10 conference wins to get into the tournament, missed opportunities like this will haunt. If you consider Pitt a win and our games vs. road games Virginia, Duke, Clemson and UNC twice losses, it leaves 8 games left. To get to nine wins, we have to win at least five of those. Of those eight, four are against likely tournament teams, at home. If you want to distill the season down into just a few games, your eyes should be turning to our shots against Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida St and Miami. Winning one or two of those is now essential to any chance the Irish have to scrape into the the tournament. Stay tuned, as the first of those four is up next Tuesday when rival Louisville comes to town. In the interim, the Irish will try to steal a win vs. powerhouse UNC on Saturday at the Purcell Pavilion.

(Photo Credit: Adam Hagy, USA Today Sports)

By |2018-01-11T01:28:05+00:00January 11th, 2018|Basketball|5 Comments

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Underthrown ShoelaceDan Zibtonkevreynd09hls12 Recent comment authors
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This write-up is much better than that game deserves


GT is not the second worst team in the league. Their record is deceiving because of the suspension and injuries (namely to Lammers).

They just beat Miami at home and held a talented healthy team to shooting %’s similar to what we saw with ND.

I believe they might be the only ACC team to return 3 double figure scorers from last season. They have 4 this season. The frosh PG is an upgrade over what they had last season. They lost Stephens (great defender), but he was a terrible shooter (like Brissett with Cuse). The big man Gueye is getting better- he had 8 points and 6 boards in 21 minutes versus ND. The frosh Haywood was shooting well before he was hurt. Also, while not putting great numbers- Alston is a veteran guard who will not hurt you.

As far as the second worst team in the league, right now it’s Wake Forest. I also would take GT on a neutral court over NC State and BC. Yes, I realize those 2 teams beat Duke, but they both benefited from very hot shooting at home versus an awful defensive team and their defense is not good. IMO on a neutral court GT is better than Cuse and possibly FSU.

I will say this, GT certainly has played to the level of their competition. ACC wins at home where they shut down MIami and Duke, yet Wright State blistered them. Wright State is 12-5 and 4-0 in their conference- so perhaps they are the Horizon equivalent of Ball State.

Since the Wright State loss, they are 4-1, with the one loss at ND by 9 where had 7 for 18 FT shooting. Held a full roster ND to 38% shooting.

Pastner noted they seem to be gelling as a team and I am sure the continuity of having all their key players available is the reason why.

Underthrown Shoelace
Underthrown Shoelace

That UNC game was intense and even more dramatic than the Cuse game (and much more gut-wrenching). I was very proud of the team and how they rebounded and defended. I need my 18Stripes coverage of the game!

I propose we divert some of the resources going into the 31 imaginary uniforms for the football team and get at least a recap for every basketball game. I kid, but I bet Eric could still do a mean basketball recap.