Notre Dame falls to Radford in third game of Gotham Classic
Joe Everett | Thursday, November 15, 2018
In front of a sparse crowd inside Purcell Pavilion on Wednesday night, Notre Dame lost to Radford 63-60 in its third game of the Gotham Classic.
The Irish (2-1) showed their youth and inexperience in key moments down the stretch and were largely unable to get into an offensive flow throughout the night, side-effects of the type of team Notre Dame has this season.
“That’s just what comes with being a young team,” Gibbs said of the offensive struggles. “We’re doing it, we’re working through the growing pains, but we knew we were going to take some bumps in the road. They’re a good team, and we’re going to keep fighting. We have a lot to work on, but we know we’re going to be OK.”
Radford showed it’s a still a quality team, having won an NCAA Tournament game last year and returning several veterans. Senior guard Caleb Tanner scored 20 points to lead the Highlanders (3-0) — a team Irish head coach Mike Brey said he knew was going to be a legitimate threat.
“I was worried about this game because they’re old, they’re good and they’re way better than us right now,” he said. “I take my hat off to Radford. I thought they made plays. We just had a hard time finding an offensive rhythm with our group, so we got a long way to go, which we kinda knew.”
The story of the game for the Irish was John Mooney, as the junior forward hit three early 3-pointers to propel the Irish to a 9-5 lead seven minutes into the opening half. Mooney would continue his hot shooting throughout the half, finishing the period with 18 points on 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc. Mooney would go on to register a career-high 24 points, and credited the play of the Notre Dame guards for his success.
“All the guards were hitting the gaps. They’re making the play and I’m wide-open because of them, so it’s a testament to how they’re playing … we just got to keep feeding off that,” Mooney said. “Once you see the first couple go in you just keep shooting, but again, it’s just me getting open because of [the guards].”
Despite Mooney’s hot start, the Highlanders wouldn’t back down, and thanks to some hot shooting from Tanner, they were able to close the Notre Dame lead to 24-23 with just over four minutes left in the opening half. The Irish responded by going on a 10-5 run to end the first, aided by five points from sophomore D.J. Harvey during that stretch to head into the locker room up 34-28. Despite trailing, Radford head coach Mike Jones knew the game would come down to the wire.
“We were missing a really big piece to our team [in guard Carlik Jones], and I was really proud of the way our guys rallied and [exhibited] a next-man-up sort of mentality,” Jones said. “We knew it was going to be a 40-minute battle, we knew we weren’t going to knock them out. A Mike Brey-coached team is one of the best in college basketball … we knew they weren’t going to make a lot of mistakes [and] that we were going to have to make some plays. I thought our guys came out with the right mentality, I thought we fought hard on the defensive end … we just told our guys to keep battling, and they kept battling.”
That mentality was evident as the Highlanders took a 41-40 lead five minutes into the second half. Though the Irish briefly regained the lead, the Highlanders ripped off a 9-2 run to make it 54-52 with eight minutes left and took the lead for good by making several tough shots. The Irish rally was hampered by offensive struggles, poor shot selection and an inability to get key stops.
“A lot of respect to Radford because their old guys were old and our young guys were younger at times, but they tried,” Brey said. “We threw them in there and they got game-situation experience. A lot of new guys doing new stuff. We just gotta get back to work. … William & Mary can beat us, Duquesne can beat us — everybody can beat us. That’s who we are right now.”
Notre Dame will wrap up the Gotham Classic by playing William & Mary on Saturday at noon and Duquesne on Tuesday at 7 p.m, and Brey said he is interested to see how the team will rebound from a disappointing loss.
“It’d be great to bounce back and see if we can get a win. This’ll be interesting for this group now … can we bounce back and win a game on Saturday?” Brey said. “As I told them on the way back from Indianapolis from the Cincinnati [preseason game], I said ‘This is a long road for us, fellas. It’s a long road, we’re all in this together, let’s hang on in there.’ … Hopefully we’ll grow from it. It’ll be interesting to see Saturday, it’ll be interesting to see practice tomorrow — this is kind of new territory for some new faces … we’re going to be in bounce-back mode a lot. That’s who we are.”