While Notre Dame struggled to score in the first half Wednesday night against Georgia Tech, sophomore forward John Mooney was able to navigate his way to eight of the team’s 20 total points.
Head coach Mike Brey rewarded Mooney with a career-high 25 minutes of action because of that output.
“I thought [it was a] big step for John [Wednesday] night in that atmosphere and gives us 11 and eight,” Brey stated. “The one thing about him as points are tough for us to get, he can score for us. He can certainly rebound.
“He still needs to improve his defense and post defense, but that he scores he’s a guy to have out there.”
Mooney didn’t back down from the opportunity. He finished the game with career highs in points (11 on 4-of-7 shooting) and rebounds (eight).
“It was a good game … got some easy buckets,” Mooney said. “It’s a matter of being confident and letting the game come to me more. Just working hard to help my team win in as many ways as I can.”
Since senior forward Bonzie Colson went down, Mooney’s minutes have increased from ab average of 10.6 in the first 14 games to 19.0 over the last three.
For the season, Mooney is averaging 4.0 points and 3.2 rebounds per game, but had averages of 6.3 points and 5.0 rebounds in those three contests with the extra playing time. He connected on 9 of 17 shots (52.9 percent) from the field, but was 0 of 5 from behind the three-point arc.
Mooney’s confidence certainly is higher coming off a career night. Another challenge awaits tomorrow in the form of defending national champion North Carolina. The Tar Heels will throw a talented frontline at Mooney and the Irish bigs.
“Learned that I can help this team out,” Mooney said of his Georgia Tech performance. “I do have a role, and I have to maximize it in as many as ways I can. I think a big opportunity for growth is doing stuff in game situations.
“It’s a great opportunity for us playing at home in front of [our home crowd]. It’s an amazing opportunity for us and we’re going to make the most of it.”
Of course, Mooney isn’t completely satisfied with his play and knows improvements are needed in order to advance his play another level.
“I’m not shooting as well as of late, so just got to get back in the gym and get some easy shots to fall,” the 6-9, 248-pounder said. “Definitely post defense is a big opportunity for me.
“Again, just doing the little things to help the team win in game situations.”
The absence of Colson and senior point guard Matt Farrell in the lineup vacates more than 37 points of production. For Mooney, it’s about continuing to elevate his game in order to mend the void as much as possible.
“It’s hard to replace a Bonzie Colson and a Matt Farrell,” Mooney explained. “It’s just a matter of guys stepping up and trying to work hard to fill their shoes. Not everyone is going to fill them 100 percent, but just doing the little things to try and do that.”
Notre Dame has averaged 52.0 points per game in its last two outings against Georgia Tech and Syracuse, while allowing 54.5 points per contest. Scoring hasn’t come easy for the group since the North Carolina State contest and that will have to change tomorrow against a potent North Carolina offense (83.4 points per game).
Brey looked to Mooney Wednesday night to provide a scoring boost and could do the same versus a potent offense.
Will Mooney be rewarded with his first career start after his Georgia Tech performance? The sophomore put together a strong audition.