Irish drop another ACC game in top-20 matchup against Wolfpack
Joe Everett | Monday, January 21, 2019
Although it stuck with No. 17 North Carolina State throughout the game, Notre Dame ultimately fell short once again down the stretch, losing 77-73 Saturday afternoon inside Purcell Pavilion.
NC State junior guard C.J. Bryce led the Wolfpack (15-3, 3-2 ACC) with 23 points. Junior forward John Mooney and freshman guard Dane Goodwin scored 19 points apiece for the Irish (11-7, 1-4 ACC), who struggled to make winning plays during the last seven minutes of play.
“I thought for the most part, offensively we were flowing pretty well throughout the game. It just comes down to game situations,” Mooney said. “That’s the theme of the year. We gotta be better in that regard, but we have a lot of ball left to play and a lot more opportunities to show that. … We just need guys to make winning plays, and it starts with me personally. I’m not doing it, and somebody’s got to step up. That’s the bottom line. We’re a confident group, I thought we battled today, but they’re a top-20 team for a reason — they’re a good team, but we were right there.”
It was Mooney, junior guard T.J. Gibbs and sophomore wing D.J. Harvey who paced the Irish offense in the first half, keeping Mike Brey’s depleted team within striking distance of the Wolfpack, and Notre Dame went into the locker room down 37-35, despite shooting just 36.7 percent from the field.
With junior forward and primary shot-blocker Juwan Durham out with an ankle injury, Brey was finally forced to burn Chris Doherty’s redshirt, as the freshman forward entered the game in each half for three minutes to give Mooney rest and provide Notre Dame with an eight-man rotation. According to Mooney, Doherty’s minutes and importance will only increase as conference play continues.
“He battled. That’s what he does,” Mooney said. “He comes in and he’s a blue-collar guy that gets on the glass and he brings a lot of energy. You should see [him] in practice, man, he’s a great player and it’s just a matter of time before he breaks out. I’m proud of him for how he played today, and again, we’re going to need him moving forward.”
In the second half, it was another freshman who broke out and carried the Irish. Scoring 17 of his 19 points in the second half, Goodwin caught fire midway through the frame to claw the Irish back within one, down 62-61 with 7:46 left in the game.
“He stepped up big time,” Mooney said. “Dane Goodwin is a very good player, and he obviously showed that today. … It was just a matter of time before [he] broke out, and I think this is going to be a spark for him. He’s a great player, a hard worker, and we’re going to need him moving forward.”
However, it was NC State that was the calm, collected and effective team down the stretch. Irish freshman guard Prentiss Hubb was forced into three-straight isolation plays — all resulting in misses — and the Wolfpack steadily began to widen the lead again. Bryce hit several big shots, and the Irish offense stalled as it looked for someone to come up clutch in the final moments.
“That’s a big possession,” Brey said. “Anybody can take the shot when there’s 15 minutes left or in the first half, but sometimes guys are a little nervous with it. … We had a hard time getting it to [Mooney] there, and so they forced us into some [tough situations]. Those were killers for us, and then they make a very big shot or very big put-back.”
Four-straight free throws by Wolfpack redshirt sophomore Devon Daniels in the final minute sealed the win for NC State, which bounced back from a road loss to Wake Forest earlier in the week. The win, NC State head coach Kevin Keatts explained, was largely a result of their three-point defense.
“[Notre Dame’s] tough, because they can shoot it from five positions,” Keats said. “We knew coming in that we had to defend the three-point line, obviously they lead the league in three-point field goals made, so for us to hold them to seven made three-pointers — I thought it was good for our guys. It’s a tough place to play, and I’m happy with our guys and certainly glad to get out of here with a win.”
For Brey, he saw the game largely the same way. At the end of the day, he said, the Irish simply have to be better than 40.7 percent from the field and 25 percent from three, especially down the stretch.
“To beat one of the better teams in this league, we’re going to have to shoot better than 40 percent,” Brey said. “That’s kind of where we’re at all the time. They’re really gifted offensively and they kind of beat us up in the paint. Loved that we battled and everything, but they were men and we were a little young.”
The Irish will travel to Atlanta next to take on Georgia Tech Tuesday. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.