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Men’s Basketball

ND excited to host marquee opponents Virginia and Duke

| Friday, January 25, 2019

This Saturday, Notre Dame prepares for a tall task when No. 3 Virginia comes to Purcell Pavilion for an afternoon matchup. The Irish could badly use a win as they have lost their last three and five of their last six, the latest defeat coming at the hands of Georgia Tech.

This past Tuesday, Notre Dame (11-8, 1-5 ACC) traveled to Atlanta for their contest against the Yellow Jackets (11-8, 3-3), and despite a fairly evenly-matched game and a valiant effort in the closing minutes of the second half, the Irish ultimately fell 63-61. In the first half, the story for Notre Dame was once again junior forward John Mooney, who took less than 20 minutes to accrue his ACC-leading 11th double-double of the season. Although Notre Dame had been down by as many seven in the first frame, it stormed back to take a 30-28 lead into half. In the second half, both teams went back and forth exchanging the lead for quite some time before Georgia Tech took over on a huge run to build as much as an 11-point lead with about five minutes to go. The Irish comeback fell just short as they failed to capitalize on a number of occasions once cutting the game to a one-possession deficit. In addition to Mooney posting 22 points and 14 rebounds, freshman Nate Laszewski also had an impressive night, scoring a career-high 19 points.

Despite the close loss on Tuesday, Irish head coach Mike Brey was encouraged by his team’s effort down the stretch and says a similar situation on Saturday would be a sign of good things to come for his team.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer
Irish junior guard T.J. Gibbs probes the defense during Notre Dame’s 63-60 loss to Radford on Nov. 14 at Purcell Pavilion.

“If we could be in this situation at the under four minutes on Saturday, it would be awesome. I think our young guys are starting to feel like they belong and are getting a feel for this league,” Brey said. “It’s interesting with our young guys we’ve never head all three [Hubb, Goodwin, Laszewski] play well together … as I’ve mentioned with Goodwin and Laszewski, because they have the ability to put double figures on the board, they have to be aggressive, they have to maybe force a shot every now and then because we just need them to score for us.”

No. 3 Virginia (17-1, 5-1) comes in with an impressive season thus far, and following after them is a matchup against No. 2 Duke on Monday night. Brey knows his team will be a heavy underdog in both of these games, but he also notes that this presents the Irish a huge opportunity to turn their fortunes around on the season.

“We haven’t gotten one of these in a while. When you get one like the one that is on the schedule for Saturday or Monday [Duke], then you can really change psychologically, and that is how karma really changes,” Brey said. “We’ve seen it happen before, so that’s where you have nothing to lose. No one is giving you a chance in these next two, so let’s just let it rip and play.”

From a player perspective, junior guard T.J. Gibbs is excited for the opportunity in front of his team and knows that it is important to continue to get in more experience and learn from it along the way against teams that present a formidable challenge.

”We have a lot more basketball to play. I’m excited for these next couple of opportunities that we have in a great stretch coming in here. It will be a fun ride,” Gibbs said. “This is just like any other game. They’re a great team and we’ve played plenty of good teams. I know we’re a good team and we just have a couple of errors that we need to kind of polish up before we go out there on Saturday, but I think this is a great opportunity, a great chance for our young guys to get another experience, another game under our belt. I’m jumping and I’m excited. I can’t wait to see what Johnny [Mooney] is going to do out there and its just a fun opportunity.”

Tip off is set for 1 p.m. at Purcell Pavilion as the Irish prepare for their toughest stretch yet this season.

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