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Men’s Basketball

‘I’m frustrated man’: Irish drop heartbreaker at No. 5 Seminoles

| Monday, January 27, 2020

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team fell 85-84 to No. 5-ranked Florida State on Saturday night in Tallahassee. A late-game surge by the Irish (11-8, 2-6 ACC) wasn’t enough to topple the Seminoles (17-2, 7-1 ACC) in front of their first sell-out crowd in Donald L. Tucker Center in nearly a year.

Allison Thornton | The Observer

Irish sophomore guard Dane Goodwin rises for a jumper during Notre Dame’s 64-62 overtime win over Toledo on Nov. 21.

The match-up presented contrasting styles, with a deep, athletic Florida State team now placed second in the conference hosting an Irish team with a sparse roster that not sits three spots from last place in the ACC. Notre Dame was limited to a seven-man rotation and had zero points recorded for just one of those seven players, while the Seminoles had two of 11 men fail to record a basket.

The Irish rolled out to a big early lead, with sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb and senior forward John Mooney knocking down a pair of three pointers to take a 6-2 lead, which quickly ballooned to a 15-4 Notre Dame advantage behind the play of Mooney and fellow senior forward Juwan Durham.

However, it was the Seminoles who would catch fire, behind the play of redshirt sophomore forward Wyatt Wilkes, who had a career-high 19 points off the bench, including 14 points on 4-4 3-point shooting in the first half, matching his previous career best of 14 points before the half ended. His hot shooting would prove infectious, as Florida State seemingly could not miss from long range throughout the contest. At one point, the Seminoles held an 11-14 mark from long range (78.57%) before finishing 12-18 (66.67%). Irish head coach Mike Brey praised the opposition’s shooting ability.

“They shot it like I’ve never seen before,” Brey said.

Florida State went on a 22-3 run to take a 26-18 lead over Notre Dame with 10:51 to go in the first half capped with a fast break dunk, and it would not let its foot off the gas. Despite one 3-pointer apiece from Hubb and senior guard T.J. Gibbs to cut into the lead at 26-24, the Seminoles would quickly stretch the lead back to seven and maintain an approximate double-digit cushion over the Irish as the visitors trailed 47-37 going into the intermission. It was the most points Notre Dame surrendered to a team in the first half of a game to date.

Mooney led the Irish in scoring at the half with 11 points, while four other players had at least six points. However, Mooney, the leading rebounder in the nation and a dog on the defensive glass, was held to only two rebounds through the first period, both of them offensive. Aside from Notre Dame’s eventual loss, another casualty of the contest would be the end of Mooney’s 12-game double-double streak, a mark set in the previous match against Syracuse that broke Luke Harangody’s school record.

Part of the Irish’s rebounding struggles was the fact the Seminoles rarely missed, and when they did, they recovered the ball. The Seminoles went 16-32 from the field in the first half, including 7-10 from three, but of the 16 defensive rebounding opportunities, the Irish only grabbed eight, surrendering the other half back to the Seminoles to the tune of 10 second chance points.

The Irish would quickly go on a 5-0 run within the first 62 seconds of the first half to make it a five-point game, but they couldn’t seem to make any further headway as Florida State maintained its offensive rhythm, eventually attaining a 14-point advantage with 13:53 remaining in the contest. The teams would continue to go back and forth until the Seminoles once more held a 14-point lead at 75-61 with 7:56 to go. Then, Brey said, Notre Dame made its move.

“They calmed down a little bit,” he said. “I’m proud of our group. We gave ourselves a chance.”

After Hubb and Durham connected on an alley-oop slam to cut it to 75-63, Brey called timeout to regroup and give his guys a rest. After play resumed, Hubb broke a brief cold spell for both teams by hitting a three to make it 75-66. The Seminoles immediately got a bucket in the paint, but Hubb made yet another three to cut the lead to eight. However, Florida State answered with a three of their own.

Still the Irish would not relent. Hubb made two free throws and Durham scored in the paint to make it a seven-point game. Hubb would then make two more free throws to make it 82-77. The Seminoles would eventually take an 85-79 lead with 27 seconds remaining but would not register another point.

Hubb quickly got down the court and nailed a stepback three to make it 85-82 as Notre Dame called its final timeout. Coming out, Durham guarded the inbounds pass and managed to just deflect the pass enough to steal it and make a contested layup to cut the margin to 85-84. The Seminoles called a timeout to regroup, but coming out of the break, the Irish managed to force a five-second inbounding violation and get the ball back down one with 16 seconds left.

However, the chips just wouldn’t fall Notre Dame’s way from there, as Durham and Hubb were both rejected on layup attempts and a last-ditch out of bounds play to sophomore guard Dane Goodwin led to a contested three that missed wide left as time expired, handing the Irish their sixth conference loss. Brey was complimentary of the way Seminoles played.

“A tip of the cap to Florida State,” Brey said. “They made great plays. I love [head coach] Leonard [Hamilton], he’s a good friend, and they’re a great team. … Disappointing though, we had chances there at the end.”

However, Brey also expressed frustration with the calls his team received at the end of the game, including a questionable traveling call against graduate student guard Rex Pflueger as he passed to Goodwin. Goodwin made the three that would have cut the lead to 82-80, but it was waved off on account of the travel, and the Notre Dame bench was assessed a technical that allowed Florida State to take an 83-77 lead in a game they won by only one point.

“[Did] Durham get fouled on that last one?” Brey said. On that steal? “Did he get fouled on that?” Brey asked in reference to Durham’s layup to make it a one-point game. “How about the walk on Pfleuger, at half court. … Are you kidding me? He T’s up our bench from across the court because he’s p—ed off at us? I’m frustrated man.”

The Irish will look to get back on track against Wake Forest on Wednesday night. The Demon Deacons (9-10, 2-7 ACC) are currently in last place in the conference.

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