Blue and Gold Illustrated

BGI April 2019

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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42 APRIL 2019 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED MEN'S BASKETBALL BY LOU SOMOGYI A form of a concession speech was given Feb. 19 by Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey following Notre Dame's 75‑68 loss at home to Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons entered the contest as the lone team in a Power Five conference that shot worse from the field than the Fighting Irish — and it would be the one league win on the road this season for Wake Forest. At that point, Notre Dame was still 13‑13 and clung to hopes of receiving at least a bid to the National Invita‑ tional Tournament after the NCAA Tournament had become a pipe dream following the 62‑47 debacle at 9‑12 Mi‑ ami Feb. 6. However, the performance at home against Wake officially made it an Irish basketball wake. "We're going to keep trying, but the reality is we are kind of who we are right now," Brey stated after the defeat to the Demon Deacons. It was a departure from his more traditionally sanguine approach, yet it also was the final epiphany of how the injury‑ridden, youth‑laden and offensively challenged unit had the makings of a free fall. Indeed, that setback was the second of seven consecutive losses to con‑ clude the regular season. The tailspin resulted in a last place tie with Pitt in the 15‑team ACC while posting a 3‑15 league ledger (13‑18 overall). Because the Panthers defeated Notre Dame 56‑53 in the regular‑ season finale March 9 — thus ending their 13‑game losing streak — it was Notre Dame that entered the ACC Tournament that began March 12 as the last‑place No. 15 seed. A 78‑71 first‑round defeat of Geor‑ gia Tech avoided the first time since the 1965‑66 season that Notre Dame lost eight straight games in the same campaign (it lost a school‑record 13 in a row that year en route to a 5‑21 finish under second‑year head coach John Dee). The Irish played their best half of the season, building a 52‑32 lead at the intermission before Tech cut its deficit to 72‑69. A clutch basket by junior forward John Mooney (20 points and 10 re‑ bounds) in the final minute provided a temporary but much needed salve to the difficult campaign. HOW DID IT HAPPEN? How could a program that ad‑ vanced to consecutive Elite Eights in 2015 and 2016, captured the 2015 ACC championship plus finished as run‑ ner‑up in 2017, and won a school‑re‑ cord seven NCAA Tournament games over a three‑year period from 2015‑17 suddenly collapse the way it did? Recruiting imbalance/attrition, youth movement, injury and health setbacks, an unforgiving, competitive league and a crisis of confidence all can take their fair share of credit. It was somewhat similar to what happened in Notre Dame's previous great run of glory from 1977‑81 when the esteemed class that included Kelly Tripucka, Orlando Woolridge and Tracy Jackson posted a 92‑26 re‑ cord while perennially ranking in the top 10, advancing to one Final Four and another Elite Eight. The year after that trio graduated, head coach Digger Phelps' Irish fell to 10‑17 and they needed to go through two more seasons of NIT purgatory before returning to NCAA Tournament action. • Notre Dame's three‑man recruit‑ ing class that signed in 2015 became ravaged as seniors this year. Guard Matt Ryan transferred a couple of years ago to Vanderbilt, which finished 9‑22 this year and 0‑18 in the SEC. He averaged 8.3 points per game while shooting only 35.9 percent from the field — which COLLAPSE The Fighting Irish ended the regular season with seven straight losses Freshman Prentiss Hubb made marked improve- ments as the season progressed, and finished with a team-high 124 assists and an 8.2 scoring average. PHOTO BY COREY BODDEN 2018-19 NOTRE DAME MEN'S BASKETBALL SCHEDULE Date Opponent (TV) Result/Time (ET) Nov. 1 Central State! W, 76-54 Nov. 6 Illinois-Chicago# W, 84-67 Nov. 8 Chicago State W, 89-62 Nov. 14 Radford# L, 63-60 Nov. 17 William & Mary# W, 73-64 Nov. 20 Duquesne# W, 67-56 Nov. 24 DePaul W, 95-70 Nov. 27 Illinois& W, 76-74 Dec. 4 vs. Oklahoma+ L, 85-80 Dec. 8 at UCLA L, 65-62 Dec. 15 vs. Purdue^ W, 88-80 Dec. 18 Binghamton W, 69-56 Dec. 20 Jacksonville W, 100-74 Dec. 29 Coppin State W, 63-56 Jan. 1 at Virginia Tech* L, 81-66 Jan. 5 Syracuse* L, 72-62 Jan. 12 Boston College* W, 69-66 Jan. 15 at North Carolina* L, 75-69 Jan. 19 NC State* L, 77-73 Jan. 22 at Georgia Tech* L, 63-61 Jan. 26 Virginia* L, 82-55 Jan. 28 Duke* L, 83-61 Feb. 2 at Boston College* W, 79-73 Feb. 6 at Miami* L, 62-47 Feb. 10 Georgia Tech* W, 69-59 Feb. 16 at Virginia* L, 60-54 Feb. 19 Wake Forest* L, 75-68 Feb. 23 Virginia Tech* L, 67-59 Feb. 25 at Florida State* L, 68-61 Mar. 3 at Louisville* L, 75-61 Mar. 6 Clemson* L, 64-62 Mar. 9 at Pittsburgh* L, 56-53 Mar. 12 vs. Georgia Tech$ W, 78-71 Mar. 13 vs. Louisville$ (ESPN2) 7 p.m. ! Exhibition; # Gotham Classic; & ACC-Big Ten Chal- lenge; + Jimmy V Classic at Madison Square Garden in New York; ^ Crossroads Classic at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis; * ACC game; $ ACC Tournament at Charlotte, N.C; ACCN — ACC Net - work; ACCNE — ACC Network Extra

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