Notre Dame throttles Miami, 87-71
Aidan Thomas | Monday, February 24, 2020
Eight days after their worst game of the season, a 34-point loss to Duke, Notre Dame delivered their best performance in conference play this year, scoring 48 points in the first half en route to an 87-71 throttling of the Miami Hurricanes. The win lifted the Irish back to .500 in the ACC, improving to 17-10 on the year, 8-8 in conference play and a 14-3 home record.
The Irish got contributions from most of the roster, with star senior forward John Mooney posting yet another double-double on 19 points and 12 rebounds, senior guard TJ Gibbs dropping 19 points, sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb recording a double-double with 15 points and 10 assists and sophomore guard Dane Goodwin pouring in 14 of his own.
After a slow start, the Irish dominated the final nine minutes of the half to open up a 48-29 lead heading into the locker room. They pushed their advantage of as much as 26 points in the second half, spending much of the final 20 minutes on cruise control, seeing out their sixth conference win in eight games. Irish head coach Mike Brey complimented his team’s cohesiveness in his post-game press conference.
“I don’t want to overcoach them when they are flowing. I just sit down and let them play,’’ Brey said. “And our guards were very good.”
Miami entered the game on a roll and fully healthy for the first time all season. They stayed with Notre Dame in the early going, leading 21-18 with 9:17 left to play. But the Irish jumped all over the Hurricanes in the final nine minutes, outscoring the visitors 30-8. Hubb fired off one of his 10 assists to Mooney, who polished off the possession with a thundering dunk for a 22-21 Irish lead, one they would not relinquish. Hubb impressed with his court vision all night, garnering high praise from Brey after the game.
“I’ve said before he is my [Patrick] Mahomes,” Brey said. “He was Mahomes tonight.”
Gibbs made consecutive threes to push the advantage to seven points, and the Irish didn’t look back, extending the lead throughout the remainder of the half. At the buzzer, Notre Dame had dished out 13 assists and not turned the ball over once.
“That’s gotta be one of our better halves we’ve ever played in this building,” Brey said. “I thought we were in a great rhythm offensively, sharing the ball.”
Coming out of the locker room, Miami kept the deficit manageable, closing within 14 points on a couple different occasions. But Notre Dame was not to be denied their victory. With their young playmakers and senior leadership, the Irish put their foot on the gas pedal and pulled away.
“I’m really proud of our group and our leadership,” Brey said. “Our sophomores have become big-time ACC players, and those three captains [Mooney, Gibbs, and graduate student Rex Pflueger] are playing to their max and leading to their max. It really is their team. They’re setting the tone.”
After Miami closed within 67-52, the Irish leaned on their experienced leadership. Mooney scored the next four points for the Irish, and then Pflueger and Gibbs each drilled a triple. Suddenly, Notre Dame was up 77-54.
The Irish needed no late-game heroics as they saw out the game from there. They didn’t score for the final three minutes, but Miami could only notch nine points to close within 16 points, accounting for the final score of 87-71.
It’s a huge win for Notre Dame, who, with four ACC games left, is desperately hoping to make a statement for the NCAA tournament. Brey remains adamant that the Irish have a shot.
“I like how we are playing right now,’’ Brey said. “We’ve got a shot. It’s going to be interesting down the stretch, but we feel like we’re going to be a part of it.”
Notre Dame embarks on a two-game road trip this week, taking on Boston College and Wake Forest.