Gibbs, Irish end losing streak, grind out win over Boston College
Benjamin Padanilam | Wednesday, February 7, 2018
Having lost seven-straight games and seen its postseason aspirations dwindle of late, Notre Dame was looking for something — anything — to get itself back on the proverbial track with some momentum it could use as a foundation for the rest of its season.
In short, it needed a spark.
But in Tuesday night’s matchup with Boston College, it didn’t get a spark.
It got an explosion.
The Irish (14-10, 4-7 ACC) scored 47 points in the first half — their most in a game since Jan. 3 — and rode the momentum of a 22-point period by sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs to their first win in eight games: a 96-85 victory over the Eagles (14-10, 4-7).
“He’s such a believer. There’s such great toughness,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said of Gibbs. “ … He just wants it for his team. He’s really pure, man.”
Going the first five minutes of the game scoreless, Gibbs first saw his team come out more efficient than it had in any of its previous seven games, as the Irish were 5-of-6 to start the contest and used the hot start to propel themselves to a narrow 11-9 lead.
And then Gibbs took over.
After the Eagles knotted the score at 11-11, Gibbs hit a 3 in response.
The Eagles would answer with a 3 of their own two possessions later, but the Irish didn’t break a sweat; after whittling the shot clock down to its final seconds, senior guard Matt Farrell found Gibbs at the top of the key, and the sophomore hit a second shot from beyond the arc.
Two possessions later, he nailed a third.
And after a steal on the defensive end, Gibbs would cap off his personal 12-3 run against the Eagles with one more long-range basket, giving the Irish a 23-14 lead.
“That’s all [my teammates],” Gibbs said of the run. “I mean, I just happened to be the one that was at the end of all the plays, but they kept finding me and I just kept shooting. Luckily, a couple of them went in.”
But the sophomore’s impact didn’t end with that run. He’d contribute 10 more points in the half, including an off-balance, running 3 at the halftime buzzer to follow Farrell’s triple after the Eagles had cut the Irish lead to just three, propelling Notre Dame to a 47-38 halftime lead.
“Just playing fearless,” Farrell said of his and Gibbs’ shots to close the half. “ … We’ve got to play like it’s pick-up. That’s how we’re playing. We’re just going out there and having fun, and that’s the way it’s got to be now. That was a huge shot with the 3, and then for him to hit that going into halftime, it jump started us in the second half.”
“Those are two halftime shots that are just unbelievable,” Brey said of Gibbs’ buzzer-beater. “He throws the one from half court, he throws that runner in … that’s skill, man. That’s a skill set to do that.”
Jump start the rest of the Irish offense it did, as it looked as though Notre Dame was going to ride that momentum to an easy win. Over the first five minutes of the second half, the Irish built their lead to 18, a 60-42 advantage, as Farrell, senior forward Martinas Geben and sophomore forward John Mooney began to carry the scoring load for the Irish.
But the Eagles matched Gibbs’ first half explosives with a dynamite stick of their own in the second half.
Over the next eight minutes, Boston College would narrow that 18-point margin to a mere deficit of two, as junior guard Jerome Robinson expanded on his 18 first half points with 28 in the second half on 9-of-14 shooting from the floor, and Boston College found itself trailing just 70-68.
“He was at the Under Armour camp this past summer with me and [senior forward Bonzie Colson]. He’s an unbelievable player,” Farrell said of Robinson. “ … That’s a tough kid to guard, and he was making a lot of tough shots. He’s got a bright future.”
Yet, Notre Dame never relinquished the lead. Two clutch threes by Farrell, who finished 5-of-11 from 3, and contributions from Geben, Pflueger, Mooney and Gibbs would help Notre Dame ultimately finish with a 26-15 advantage down the stretch to close out its 96-85 win.
“I think everybody had a lot of confidence [during the closing stretch] because of the way we were moving offensively,” Farrell said. “When we’re moving like that, guys are feeling good and we’re having playing with each other — we’re playing the right way. When that’s happening, we’ve got really good basketball players here, it’s simple. You get in the lane, you make plays, you drive and kick and we make shots. When we do that, we’re a really dangerous team.”
While Gibbs and Farrell would lead the way with 28 and 19 points, respectively, the offense found its rhythm collectively in the second half. Geben and Mooney scored 16 each, while Pflueger added 13.
“When in doubt, put 96 on the board,” Brey said. “Maybe we jump started our offense a little bit. Certainly we needed it, and I’m thrilled for our guys to be able to celebrate a little bit in the locker room.
“It’s been a while.”