Irish win by two in overtime thriller against Toledo
Nate Moller | Friday, November 22, 2019
Men’s basketball defeated the Toledo Rockets of the MAC 64-62 in an overtime thriller last night at the Purcell Pavilion. In a game that saw horrible shooting by both teams, the Irish made enough big plays on defense by the end to secure the victory.
Sophomore guard Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 16 points, followed by senior guard T.J. Gibbs and sophomore forward Nate Laszewski with 11 apiece. Junior guard Marreon Jackson led the way for the Rockets with 23 points.
The Irish defense played well out of the gates and built a 7-2 lead for the Irish, but Jackson made some early shots to tie the game at 9-9. Following a few made shots from Notre Dame, the Irish offense went stagnant over the next six minutes with 11 missed shots.
Despite poor shooting during the game, head coach Mike Brey is confident his team will shoot better going forward.
“The law of averages will kick in,” Brey said. “We had some good looks. I think we settled for some shots instead of driving it some when we could have, and I think that will help us a little bit more.”
The defense kept the Irish in the game and sophomore guard Robby Carmody finally broke the scoring drought for the Irish to knot the game up at 17 apiece. The Toledo offense heated up, however, and the Rockets built a 25-19 lead over the next few possessions. Goodwin finally knocked down a three a few possessions later to rejuvenate the Irish. Before that basket, the Irish were 1 of 13 from the 3-point line. Toledo responded with a basket of their own on the next possession, but Gibbs knocked down two from the line to cut the Rocket lead to 27-24 going into the half.
Despite some made shots to start the half, the Irish offense faltered again and Toledo went on a run. At the under-16 timeout, the Rockets led 35-31.
Laszewski finally broke another scoring drought for the Irish by knocking down a 3-pointer to cut the Toledo lead to one. Toledo slowly extended their lead to seven, however, before Goodwin reinvigorated the Irish by knocking down threes on back-to back possessions to cut the Toledo lead to one once more with 10 minutes to play.
Following some back and forth possessions, both teams went cold from the field for the next three minutes before Johnson knocked down a three off of an offensive rebound to extend the Toledo lead to 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.
The drama then started to escalate. After a Toledo player appeared to run into senior forward John Mooney, a moving screen foul was called on Gibbs. Brey was disgusted with the call, leading to a technical foul. Jackson would calmly knock down both free throws and extend the Toledo lead to 52-45 with just over four minutes to go.
Despite being down by seven, Goodwin said he and his teammates had the confidence to win.
“We had some good looks that weren’t going in, and we said we are going to do this,” Goodwin said. “Man to man we said we were going to do it.”
Toledo still had a five point lead with a minute to go, and the Irish began to foul with 42 seconds left. Following a missed one and one by Toledo, Gibbs converted a short jumper to cut the Toledo lead to 54-51 with 29 seconds on the clock.
The Irish defense came alive with graduate student Rex Pflueger picking up a steal and drawing a charge. Despite this move, the offense failed to capitalize and the Rockets still led 54-52. On the ensuing possession, Willie Jackson of Toledo was fouled with 11.4 seconds to go and made one of two free throws to give the Rockets a 55-52 lead.
Sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb was then fouled with six seconds to go, but he missed the front end of the one and one. The Irish grabbed the rebound and kicked it out to a wide-open Gibbs, who missed a three before pleading to the referee for a foul to no avail. The shot got stuck between the rim and backboard, however, giving the jump ball to the Irish down by three with .8 seconds to play.
Out of the timeout, Brey drew up a play for Laszewski. The misdirection inbounds play gave Laszewski a great look from three to send the game to overtime at 55 apiece. Laszewski said he knew he made the shot when it left his hand.
“Coach Brey told me to step up and take it, and it gave me a lot of confidence,” Laszewski said.
The overtime period was almost as crazy as the end of the game. Goodwin gave the Irish a brief lead out of the gates before Jackson answered with a layup to tie it up again. A few possessions later, Mooney found himself at the line but was unable to make either shot.
Redshirt freshman guard Keshaun Sanders of Toledo was fouled on the next possession. Sanders sunk his free throws and the Rockets regained the lead at 59-57. After cutting the lead to one, the Irish defense got a huge stop to get the ball back with 31 seconds to go.
On the next play, Gibbs found Pflueger on a backdoor cut to give the Irish the lead for good at 60-59.
Brey mentioned how the backdoor cut was not a planned play.
“It was just out of our emotions,” Brey said. “That was not a called play. It was just two senior guards connecting and communicating.”
Gibbs and Pflueger both knocked down two free throws, and when all was said and done, the Irish secured the 64-62 win in thrilling fashion.
Brey hopes his team can look back on this exciting win throughout the rest of the season.
“This is a great reference point because no matter how bad it may look at times, we can always remember how we came back against a solid Toledo team,” Brey said.
Brey believes Pflueger was the difference-maker against Toledo. Pflueger is why the team is better than last year, Brey said.
“I could care less about [Pflueger’s] shooting. He makes every play. He’s such a winner,” Brey said. “There’s a will about this group, and Pflueger is the key. You look at the stuff he does and how much we missed a winner and tough guy.
The Irish will have a few days to regroup after their hard fought, emotional victory before they tip off against Farleigh Dickinson on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion.