Notre Dame Drops Another Heartbreaker To No. 5 FSU
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said earlier this week, after a tough two-point loss to Syracuse, that his team at least provides must-see TV.
More of the same came Saturday in another heart-stopping last-second 85-84 loss at No. 5 Florida State where no 50-50 officiating calls went the way of the Irish down the stretch, and neither did the 90-10 calls in Brey’s opinion.
Two questionable traveling calls against Irish senior Rex Pflueger in the last three minutes; a no-foul call on a late steal and layup by ND senior forward Juwan Durham that brought the Irish to within one point; an unexpected technical foul call on the Irish bench with 2:31 left in the game; and some physical Helter Skelter action in the closing seconds with no game stoppage left Brey as animated as he has ever been after a game.
“Durham get fouled on that one? How about the ‘walk’ on Pflueger at half court?,” Brey rhetorically asked afterward. “Sometimes we’re treated by the officials like we haven’t brought football as a full member, yet we get a full share of the ACC Network TV, are you kidding me? He Ts up (calls a technical) on our bench from across the court because he’s pissed off at us. I’m frustrated man. … Come on man, we’re in the league too! We’re in the league too, come on!”
Brey understands losing close games is an occupational hazard. But the 20-year Irish coach demonstrated how deeply this one cut.
For the fifth time in eight ACC games this season, Notre Dame (11-8; 2-6 ACC) took its opponent to the last possession. And for the fourth time in those five games, it lost.
Each of the last seven conference games for the Irish have been decided by five points or fewer, five of those by three points or fewer.
As has been the norm, Brey praised his team for climbing back from a 14-point deficit in the second half, but could only tip his cap to the victors.
“They’re really good,” Brey said, “and we still had an opportunity even though they shot it like I’ve never seen before.”
Trailing 75-61 with less than eight minutes left in the game, Irish sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb scored 13 of his game-high 24 points to help Notre Dame to a 23-10 scoring run to finish the game, but the rally came up one point short.
Pflueger was nabbed for two questionable travel calls and turned the ball over three times in the last three minutes of the game that allowed FSU (17-2; 7-1) to win its 10th straight and remain in the hunt for an ACC title.
This marked the 19th straight loss to a ranked team for Notre Dame — dating back to a victory over No. 6 Wichita State in the 2017 Maui Invitational championship game — which is believed to be a program record.
A three-pointer by Hubb with 18 seconds remaining in the game pulled Notre Dame to within 85-82. Durham followed with a steal and layup on the ensuing FSU inbound pass bringing the Irish within 85-84 with 17 seconds left.
Another stop, a couple of missed shots, a mad scramble, some questionable no-calls and an offensive rebound by Irish senior John Mooney set up a desperation game-winning three-point attempt by sophomore guard Dane Goodwin.
Goodwin’s shot missed, Mooney had a chance at a put-back, but no-go.
“I’m proud of our group,” Brey said. “We gave ourselves a chance, disappointing though. We had chances there.”
Notre Dame enjoyed one of its best starts to a game this season, building a 15-4 lead just four minutes in.
But a swarm of FSU athletes led to too much ball pressure on Irish shooters and a distinct rebounding advantage that sparked an 18-0 run that gave the Seminoles the lead for good.
In addition to difficulties closing games, another reoccurring theme for Notre Dame this season has been unknown opposing players making big-time plays and having big-time games.
FSU sophomore forward Wyatt Wilkes became the latest to join the list.
Wilkes, who entered the game averaging 2.2 per game and had 35 total points for the season, hit for a career-high and a team-high 19 points that included 5-of-6 three-point shooting.
Beyond Hubb, the Irish showed terrific scoring balance and put five players in double-figures.
Mooney and Durham had 16 points, Goodwin had 12 and senior guard T.J. Gibbs, who fouled out with 3:48 left in the game, added 11.
Most of the areas of emphasis Brey and Notre Dame have built its season on Florida State was able to either undermine or one-up the Irish on Saturday night.
Notre Dame, the nation’s leading assist-to-turnover team, recorded only 12 assists against 15 turnovers, marking only the fifth time this season the Irish had 10 or more giveaways.
Notre Dame also thrives on its three-point shooting, and it went a respectable 10-of-27 from long range. But, the Seminoles answered with 12-of-18 from behind the arc, including one stretch when they made seven threes in a row.
The Irish stayed in the game with 17-of-22 foul shooting, but again, FSU went 13-of-14 from the stripe to help minimize that Notre Dame advantage.
With his 21 points and 13 rebounds Wednesday against Louisville, Mooney set a Notre Dame program record with his 12th consecutive double-double.
That streak came to end Saturday against the tall, long and athletic interior players from FSU.
Mooney scored adequately with 16 points on 5-of-9 shooting, but he managed just five rebounds, only two of which came on the defensive end.
Mooney entered the game as the only player in the country averaging more than 10 defensive rebounds.
To help illustrate Mooney’s struggles, the nation’s leading rebounder didn’t grab his first board until there were only seven minutes remaining the first half. His first defensive rebound didn’t come until well into the second half.
Up Next: Notre Dame returns home Wednesday to take on Wake Forest, a team it has played only nine times, eight in ACC play since 2014 and once in March of 2000 when the Deacons beat the Irish, 71-61, in the championship game of the postseason NIT Tournament.
Notre Dame leads the all-time series 5-4, which included a five-game winning streak from 2015-18 until Wake Forest dumped the Irish, 75-68, at Purcell Pavilion last season in regular-season league play, the only meeting between these two teams in 2018-19.
Wake Forest (9-9; 2-6) hosts Virginia (12-6; 4-4) at noon Sunday.