Behind Djogo, Irish prevail over Eagles to snap losing streak
Joe Everett | Monday, February 4, 2019
Earning a spot in the starting lineup for the first time this season, Irish junior guard Nikola Djogo decided to register his best performance in a Notre Dame uniform.
Djogo poured in a career-high 21 points to spark the Irish on the offensive end of the floor while three other Irish players scored at least 15 points to lead Notre Dame to a 79-73 road win over Boston College on Saturday afternoon.
“I put him in the starting lineup and man did he deliver for us,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said.
Junior guard T.J. Gibbs scored 19, freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb had 16 and junior forward John Mooney contributed 15 points for the Irish (12-10, 2-7 ACC), who maintained a consistent offensive flow throughout the game and finished by shooting 27-of-51 from the floor (52.9 percent) and 10-of-20 from beyond the arc. Notre Dame defeated Boston College (11-9, 2-6 ACC) for the 13th-straight time and for the second time in conference play this season, snapping what had been a five-game losing streak in the ACC after their 69-66 home victory over the Eagles on Jan. 12. Perhaps the biggest take-away from the game was the offensive rhythm the Irish were able to create — as Brey had noticed a stagnant offense time and time again throughout the past month.
“I’d love to see us find a little better offensive rhythm,” Brey said Thursday. “We have really struggled with that. We’re great with the ball, we take care of the basketball, but can we develop a third scorer more consistently? Could a fourth scorer emerge here in this month?”
Djogo emerged Saturday for the Irish, and came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 11 of Notre Dame’s first 16 points — including the first eight — to spark Brey’s squad to an early 16-9 lead inside Conte Forum. The Eagles responded by going on a quick 7-0 run to tie the game at 16, and the game began to slow down as both teams buckled down on defense and aimed to keep close to one another.
However, three-straight 3’s from Hubb, Djogo and sophomore wing D.J. Harvey ballooned Notre Dame’s lead to 31-21 with 2:57 left in the first half. Boston College would close the gap before the break, as Eagles junior guard Ky Bowman, who scored a game-high 25 points, finished the half with five straight points — bookended a 3 from Irish freshman guard Dane Goodwin — and Notre Dame returned to the locker room up 36-31, appearing a more confident team than the one that lost seven ACC games last month.
“They just put the jerseys on and play,” Brey said last week about the team’s confidence. “Guys just go back and play.”
Boston College came out strong in the second half, and quickly tied the game at 39 after a dunk by Eagles junior guard Jared Hamilton, who scored a career-high 17 points. Both teams kept within one score of the other, and the Eagles re-took the lead with 12:11 on a dunk by Bowman to go up 52-50. Gibbs immediately responded by draining a 3-pointer, and the rest of the game followed from there: tight-scores, with both teams responding to the other in key moments.
A timeout with 3:28 left saw Notre Dame clinging to 66-65 lead with the ball. In a key possession, Irish offense found an open Mooney on the perimeter, and the junior forward knocked down a 3. Not to be outdone, Hamilton responded with a three of his own. Gibbs countered with a layup to put the Irish up 71-68. After a Boston College turnover, Djogo sliced his way to the bucket for a crucial layup, causing BC to call a timeout with 1:23 left. Now up five, Notre Dame was sent to the line its next three offensive possessions, with Hubbs and Gibbs knocking down all six free throws to seal the deal and earn the Irish their second league win of the season. Boston College head coach Jim Christian said the outcome came down to key, late-game situations and that the Irish — who have struggled in that area of the game this season —were simply better than the Eagles were down the stretch Saturday.
“That’s the difference between winning and losing in the ACC — everybody needs to be focused,” Christian said. “Everybody on the floor needs to be unbelievably focused. Everybody needs to understand what we’re trying to do, and I think we came out of two timeouts in a row and didn’t execute … we weren’t [together] in key stretches, and that’s why you lose.”
Up next, the Irish continue ACC play by heading down south to take on Miami (FL) Wednesday evening at the Watsco Center in Coral Gables, Florida. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m.