Irish fall short of comeback against Louisville in ACC tournament second round game
Observer Sports Staff | Thursday, March 14, 2019
Despite junior guard T.J. Gibbs’ best efforts, it was too little, too late.
Taking the court at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina for the second game in as many days, Notre Dame was unable to keep their tournament hopes alive as they fell 75-53 to Louisville on Wednesday.
After a scorching hot first half against Georgia Tech the day before, followed by a second half in which they merely hung on to advance, the Irish (14-19, 3-15 ACC) knew they would have their hands full in the second round against Louisville (20-12, 10-8). The Cardinals, who currently sit just outside the top 25, have struggled as of late, dropping four of their last five conference matchups, with their lone victory coming over the Irish. However, the storied program sits comfortably in the upper-middle standings of arguably the best conference in the country.
With a starting unit of three true freshmen, Gibbs and junior forward John Mooney, Notre Dame jumped out to a quick advantage. The two veterans started things off for the Irish as Mooney and Gibbs each hit a 3-pointer and a jumper to earn a 10-6 lead. Not to be outdone, Louisville sophomore Jordan Nwora kept the Notre Dame defense busy, scoring all 12 of his team’s points in the first five minutes, the last of which came on a 3-pointer in transition to give Louisville their first lead of the night. It was a lead they would not surrender for the remainder of play.
Nwora’s hot start eventually got his teammates involved as they went on a 16-2 run in which Nwora did not score. Meanwhile, with the exception of back-to-back free throws by freshman guard Prentiss Hubb, the Irish rim went cold, missing seven straight 3-point attempts. Down 16 with over eight minutes remaining in the half, Gibbs managed to stop the bleeding with three made free throws and a jumper to cut the deficit to 11. However, Nwora wasn’t one to let Notre Dame mount a comeback as he sunk two shots from the charity stripe.
For the remainder of the half, the teams traded baskets as Notre Dame continued trying to claw its way back into the game. Only in the final two minutes of the half were they able to make any headway, scoring five unanswered points, capped off by a putback jam by junior forward Juwan Durham to bring the deficit to single digits.
Following two quick free throws by Nwora to open the second half, Gibbs and freshman guard Dane Goodwin added two points apiece and it looked like the Irish were back in the hunt to advance in the quest for the conference title. However, a 10-2 run by the Cardinals allowed distance between the teams. Gibbs once again tried to play hero, knocking down a jumper, but back-to-back 3-pointers by redshirt junior guard Ryan McMahon swelled the Cardinals lead to 19. Having yet to gain any substantial momentum of the half, Notre Dame was unable to cut the lead to single digits as it reached as high as 24 at times.
The 22-point loss marked the end of Notre Dame’s ACC Tournament run and likely its 2018-2019 season as the Irish are not anticipated to qualify for any postseason tournaments.