Notre Dame Drops Season Opener At North Carolina
The moral of the story during Notre Dame’s 76-65 loss Wednesday at No. 9 North Carolina is that if you only bring two-and-half players to an ACC basketball game, things won’t end well.
The Irish enjoyed great work in its season and ACC opener from starting guards T.J. Gibbs and Prentiss Hubb, and some marginal contribution from senior forward John Mooney, that’s about it.
That trio combined for 51 of Notre Dame’s points and 19 of its 24 made field goals, but it wasn’t enough to stand next to the historic game that North Carolina freshman guard Cole Anthony played and the 18-4 run the Tar Heals enjoyed in the middle of the second half that turned a 46-43 Irish lead into an insurmountable 61-50 deficit.
Anthony’s 34 points — which included 6-of-11 three-point shooting — set a Tar Heal record for most points in a North Carolina player’s debut game.
“I liked that we’re disappointed that we didn’t win,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said after the game. “I think that we felt that we could win here and probably defended well enough.”
Though, North Carolina shot 47 percent overall and 50 percent three-pointers.
On the Notre Dame side, Gibbs and Hubb combined for 41 points, making 9-of-15 three-pointers. If this duo can play that well all season, there is some hope, so long as they can find some support.
Hubb and Gibbs combined for 14-of-29 shooting. The rest of the Irish went 10-of-39.
Hubb finished with a career-high 22 points and added a team-high six assists.
“Prentiss Hubb quarterbacked the whole night,” Brey said. “Prentiss Hubb has been fabulous.”
Gibbs rebounded from a couple of disappointing exhibition performances with 19 points with four assists. Mooney shot only 5-of-13 from the field and finished with 10 points and eight rebounds.
As a team, Notre Dame went 9-of-31 from behind the three-point arc. Take away Hubb and Gibbs and everybody else went 0-for-16 … yep, 0-for-16.
“We’re going to have to make some more of those open looks to beat a team,” Brey said in the understatement of the night. “I thought we had some great looks but we couldn’t make them. Hopefully something for us to really build on.”
*Year Older and Better?
Much of the talk during the preseason was how the highly-celebrated recruiting and sharpshooting recruiting class of 2018 was a year older, more battle tested and look out ACC.
Against North Carolina, the four members who played from the now sophomore class combined for 4-of-19 shooting, 11 points and nine rebounds, almost all of that production coming late in the second half during mop-up minutes.
These guys need to start making plays and hitting shots.
*Hopefully No Trend
With 6-11 center Juwan Durham hampered by some early foul trouble, and Mooney trying handle the rebounding duties on his own, the Irish were out-boarded 51-31 in this game. That included a 14-8 advantage for North Carolina on the offensive boards, that led to 17 second-chance points for the Tar Heals.
Irish sophomore Nate Laszewski did add seven rebounds for the Irish, but again, most were late in the game and inconsequential.
*Shoot to the Mooney
Instead of working the offense through Mooney, Notre Dame almost entirely relied on the three-point shot in the first half and even into the second half — 32 of Notre Dame’s 68 field goal attempts were threes.
With no inside-outside balance, the Irish watched Hubb and Gibbs score every field goal, and all but one of their 26 points, during about a 10-minute stretch to end the first half and start there second half.
Mooney didn’t score and rarely touched the ball during that span.
Notre Dame will begin a string of six home games in 18 days Saturday against Robert Morris that won’t make a season, but could certainly spoil it.