Irish look to take down Florida State in key ACC matchup
Observer Sports Staff | Friday, January 24, 2020
After a narrow 84-82 home defeat on Wednesday against Syracuse, Notre Dame (11-7) will hit the road for the fifth time in eight ACC games this season on Saturday when they travel to Tallahassee, Florida, to take on No. 5 Florida State (16-2).
The Irish have never beaten the Seminoles on their home court, but their recent play has shown they have the ability to go toe-to-toe with one of the nation’s best teams. While the Irish were competitive in only a handful of ACC games last season when they went 3-15 in conference, head coach Mike Brey’s team has been on the doorstep in every conference game this season.
In Wednesday night’s game, the Irish had the lead with less than six minutes to play before the Orange were able to ice the game at the free throw line down the stretch. Against No. 11 Louisville on Jan. 11, the Irish put together a strong second half and had a chance to tie the game on the final possession of regulation.
The Irish are currently 2-5 against ACC opponents and will need to start securing some conference wins to bolster their case for the NCAA tournament down the line.
As a team, the Irish have been much better on offense this season and are sharing the ball effectively. Notre Dame ranks first in the ACC with 17.9 assists per game and leads the nation with a 1.6 assist to turnover ratio. The Irish are also knocking down nearly 10 threes a game, up from eight a game last season.
Notre Dame’s improvement from last season can be attributed in large part to the improved play of senior guard T.J. Gibbs. The New Jersey native is shooting 55% from the field against ACC opponents this season, which ranks second in the conference. Gibbs is also shooting 52% from downtown, also second best in the conference. Gibbs needs just 13 points to become Notre Dame’s all-time leading scorer in ACC play.
One thing that has remained consistent from last season is the outstanding play of senior forward John Mooney. The Orlando, Florida, product seems to stuff the stat sheet every night and is averaging a double-double (15.7 points, 13.9 rebounds) on the season. His 13.9 rebounds per game lead college basketball, and he is the only player in the nation averaging more than 15 points and 13 rebounds. Mooney recorded his NCAA leading 15th double-double Wednesday against Syracuse, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds.
The Irish will need sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb to continue his hot shooting on the road if they want to keep pace with the Seminoles on Saturday. Hubb is averaging 23.3 points per game on the road this season to go along with five assists per game. The Washington D.C. native is also shooting 50% from behind the arc this season in away contests.
The Irish and the Seminoles do have a common out-of-conference opponent this season, as both teams faced Indiana in the ACC-Big Ten challenge in December. Florida State beat the Hoosiers 80-64, but the Irish were once again difficult to put away in that game, losing 62-60.
Notre Dame and Florida State will tip off at 8 p.m. on Saturday.