Playing only six players after losing two starters to illness and injury, Notre Dame found a way to win their first ACC game against Boston College. A few hours before the game, ND announced that Juwan Durham would miss the game with an ankle injury. Thirty minutes before tip, TJ Gibbs started showing signs of flu, and left the arena. With much of the gameplan out the window, The Loosest Coach in America (TM) had six rotation players, a walk-on, and a freshman that was supposed to redshirt. Get old, stay old had been a mantra for this program; three freshmen and a sophomore started the game.
Despite all this, the Irish found a way to win a nail-biter against Boston College 69-66. John Mooney had a career game when his team needed him most. The junior scored a career high 27 points, and added 12 rebounds for his ACC leading eighth double-double. Prentiss Hubb, who was originally going to come off the bench, played 39 minutes, scored 16 points, shot 4-8 from deep, and made the two biggest FTs of the game. It wasn’t pretty, but there’s no bad wins in conference play. For a group staring down their toughest stretch of ACC play, this win came at the absolute right time.
John Mooney’s Career Game
While this season has been a disappointment considering the injuries and missed opportunities, Mooney’s play has been a huge bright spot. Irish fans have grown accustomed to seeing upperclassmen bigs make a leap. Jack Cooley went from playing a fairly small role as a freshman and sophomore to All-Big East as a junior. Zach Auguste doubled his ppg average from his sophomore to junior seasons. Martinas Geben looked like a completely different player his senior year.
This year, it’s Mooney’s turn. The junior forward has more than doubled his scoring and rebounding. He’s also shooting a higher percentage from everywhere on the court on a higher volume of shooting. He’ll likely be overlooked for ACC Player of the Week (did you see Duke won a big game?), but his play was huge on Saturday. His 27 points against BC required just 13 FGA, and he was perfect from the line (9/9). Considering Brey usually likes to keep his bigs at around 30 mpg, his 39 minutes might be a Brey-era record for a big guy in a regulation game. The Irish needed him for every second on Saturday.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) January 12, 2019
After the game, SID Alan Wasielewski noted that this was the first time since 2000 that ND started three freshmen. Like much of the season, it was a mixed bag from the youngsters. Prentiss Hubb had about as good a game as you could hope for. Hubb has struggled with his jump shot all season, but picked a good game to turn it around. The DC native was 4/8 from deep. He did have a few out of control shots at the rim that were nowhere close, but his willingness to drive ultimately drew the foul that won the game. He also showed serious onions to knock down the free throws with 2.6 seconds left that won ND the game.
Nate Laszewski struggled with his jump shot (0/7 from 3), but had double digit rebounds. Almost all of his attempts from deep were good looks, and a couple just rimmed out. Considering his high school stats and his mechanics, you have to think he’s going to have a game soon where he absolutely fills it up from behind the arc. Looking ahead to next year, if he could get the upperclassmen big jump a year early, the Irish could have an absolutely loaded front court. Dane Goodwin also struggled a bit on offense, but had a few big rebounds in traffic. He also got the steal to ice the game after Hubb’s free throws.
Bits and Bobs
- Brey was careful to keep DJ Harvey at a manageable number of minutes on Saturday. The other starters were all over 35 minutes, but Harvey played “just” 28. Harvey struggled from the floor shooting just 3/11 from the field. He stopped the ball on offense a few times as well. Ultimately Harvey is the best one-on-one scorer the Irish have. That said, his holding the ball and breaking down his defender can take the Irish out of their offensive flow. You’d like to see him attack immediately after the catch, or keep the ball moving, not hold it and jab step before a drive.
- Nik Djogo did an admirable job filling in on Saturday. He didn’t score, but moved the ball well, and grabbed six boards. The lone black mark was missing the front end of a one-and-one in the first half.
- BC was led by Ky Bowman’s 24 points. His shooting an arrow (get it, “Bow-man”) after making a three will never not be annoying.
- Rex Pflueger had his ACL surgery on Friday. As previously reported, he’ll be back for a fifth year next season.
- The Irish travel to UNC on Tuesday. Gibbs should be back, but Durham is questionable.
- Irish legend Bob Whitmore was inducted into the Notre Dame Ring of Honor at halftime. Along with Whitmore, a number of his teammates from the late 1960s as well as DeMatha coach and Mike Brey’s mentor Morgan Wooten were in attendance. In addition to being a great player, Whitmore is considered the trailblazer that started the DC to ND pipeline that includes Irish greats Adrian Dantley, Austin Carr, and Jerian Grant. Additionally, the Irish are now 8-0 in games where they induct someone into the Ring of Honor. Why not induct someone every game? Sure Austin Torres doesn’t “deserve” it, but beating Duke would be really cool.