Losses to Monmouth, Alabama push ND out of top 25
Marek Mazurek | Tuesday, December 1, 2015
It was a tough weekend for Notre Dame as the Irish dropped two out of three games at the AdvoCare Invitational in Orlando, Florida.
The Irish headed into the tournament ranked No. 17 nationally but have fallen out of the rankings after losses to Monmouth and Alabama overshadowed a win against Iowa. Irish head coach Mike Brey said the weekend was a learning experience for the team.
“I’ve learned that we’ve got a lot of growing pains that we’re working through,” Brey said. “I thought we learned a lot about our group. I would have loved to learn it going 2-1 instead of 1-2. But I think for us, and I try to remind myself, this group is going to be a longer-term developing group.”
The Irish (4-2) started their tournament against Monmouth (4-2) on Thanksgiving day but were upset by the Hawks, 70-68. Monmouth junior guard Justin Robinson scored 22 points, including two free throws with 3.6 seconds left in the game, to seal the comeback victory.
Notre Dame led 37-29 at halftime, but were unable to finish the Hawks off as Monmouth went on a 12-4 run coming out of the half. A three-point play by Jackson tied the game at 68 with 30 seconds left, but Robinson made a jump shot on the ensuing possession and Jackson missed a half-court shot as the buzzer sounded.
Jackson led the Irish with 20 points, junior forward V.J. Beachem added 14 as junior guard Steve Vasturia and senior forward Zach Auguste each contributed 12. Brey said Monmouth’s momentum early in the second half carried it to a win.
“We lost to a good team,” Brey said. “I think our second-half start really hurt us. We were up 8; missed a couple of things around the bucket. [I’m] proud of how we battled back and gave ourselves a chance. They’re really hard to deal with because they’ve got so many drivers and their transition is so effective.”
Notre Dame rebounded with a 68-62 victory over Iowa (4-2) on Friday with Beachem leading the team with 16 points and five rebounds. The Irish again held a halftime lead, but Iowa went on a 16-0 run in the middle of the second half to take the lead 47-46. The game remained neck-and-neck until two layups by Irish sophomore forward Bonzie Colson capped a 9-2 Notre Dame run to seal the game.
Sunday, the Irish came up short again in a 74-73 loss to Alabama as Jackson missed on a last-second layup. Unlike the first two games of the tournament, Notre Dame trailed at halftime, 43-39, but went on a 14-7 run to start the second half.
Senior guard Retin Obasohan led the Crimson Tide back with 19 points in the game, but with 1:29 left, the Irish held a 73-72 lead. Senior forward Zach Auguste missed two free throws with 28.6 seconds left to give Alabama a chance, and Obasohan took advantage, driving through Notre Dame’s zone defense to make the game-winning layup with eight seconds remaining on the clock.
Auguste recorded his fourth double-double of the season with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Junior guard Steve Vasturia tallied 18 points and Jackson chipped in 16 as the Irish fell to a 4-2 record.
The weekend was undoubtedly a setback for the Irish, who will travel to Illinois on Wednesday. However, the team remains confident, said Auguste.
“It’s a long season,” Auguste said. “There’s going to be some bumps that we face; there’s going to be some adversity. But we have to continue to work hard and have short memories.”
Jackson echoed Auguste’s comments and added that an important takeaway from the weekend was that the Irish were in every game at the end.
“Obviously [it is] disappointing losing; no one wants to lose,” Jackson said. “But we gave ourselves a chance to win at the end of every game. That was something to take away from [the tournament] — we always gave ourselves a chance to win.”
Going forward, Brey said the most important thing for the Irish to improve upon is the defense.
“Offensively, we’ve been pretty efficient,” Brey said. “I’ve been disappointed with our defense. I thought we could be a little more consistent down there and certainly [Sunday], we just could never get a key stop to get it to two possessions or to win a game. And I think that’s something we really have to talk about and address and hold guys accountable to.”
Notre Dame’s next contest is Wednesday against Illinois at 9:15 p.m.