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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame falls to Oklahoma 85-80 in Jimmy V Classic

| Wednesday, December 5, 2018

On Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, Notre Dame suffered a close loss against Oklahoma in the Jimmy V Classic. The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Irish (6-2), their last win coming on Nov. 27 over Illinois.

Connery McFadden | The Observer

Irish junior forward John Mooney dunks the ball during Notre Dame’s 67-56 win over Duquesne on Nov. 20 at Purcell Pavilion.

In the first half, both teams got off to a rather sloppy start in the first few minutes, but Notre Dame had a lone bright spot out of the gate in junior forward John Mooney. In just the first three minutes, he had already collected six rebounds, and he put up the first points of the game for the Irish after grabbing his seventh board off the offensive glass. The Irish looked susceptible to the 3-ball early, while starting just 2-of-12 on field goals themselves, and head coach Mike Brey was forced to call a timeout five minutes in, as the Sooners (7-1) neared a double digit lead. Coming out of the break, Notre Dame appeared to wake up, as the offense began to find a rhythm, thanks to solid ball movement. With about eight minutes to go in the half, the Irish transition play picked up, and the team went on an 11-4 run to take the lead. Nevertheless, momentum shifted back to Oklahoma as the half neared a close, with Notre Dame looking a bit rushed with the ball. The Sooners countered with their own big run to take a 43-36 lead at half.

As the second half got underway, Oklahoma rode the momentum it closed the first half with to take its biggest lead of the game, before junior guard T.J. Gibbs settled things down with a big 3-pointer. John Mooney once again made his presence known after putting up 11 points and 11 rebounds in the first half, and provided a shot of energy for the Irish, who went on a 9-0 run to cut the Oklahoma lead to two. Improvement on the defensive end came in large part from a switch to zone defense, which frustrated the Sooner offense. Midway through the second half, once Oklahoma had once again found its groove, the Irish were forced to trade buckets, and junior transfer Juwan Durham stepped up to provide eight straight points for Notre Dame.

As the game entered crunch time, the Irish were doing their best to hang on, a task made difficult by some lights-out 3-point shooting by Oklahoma. The Sooners were 15-29 from deep on the night, a critical part of their game that led to the win. Notre Dame stayed within reach for a while, as guard T.J. Gibbs posted 15 of his 18 points in the second half, but missed Irish free throws helped maintain the Oklahoma lead. After Notre Dame missed one last opportunity with 30 seconds left, Oklahoma grabbed the rebound and hit its free throws to take the game 85-80.

Before the game, Brey commented on the state of his young team, which struggled to handle the late-game situations against the Sooners.

“They have great focus. They work. Our young guys are really smart basketball players, and come from coached situations. They know how to come in and listen and get better and take teaching,” Brey said Monday. “For us, I just think I need to understand that there are going to be those steps back. We’ve taken a couple of steps forward, and when we take steps back, we got to just keep coming in and teaching and keep trying to get better.”

Notre Dame will next be in action on Dec. 8, when they head to Los Angeles to take on UCLA in another non conference matchup before ACC play gets underway next month.

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