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Notre Dame Hangs On To Defeat Illinois 76-74

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BGI/Corey Bodden

Notre Dame (6-1) built a 13-point lead in the second half before holding on to defeat Illinois (2-5) 76-74 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Irish used an 18-5 run to go up 65-52 with just over seven minutes, but the Illini refused to go away eventually getting a good three-point look in the final seconds to attempt to steal a win in South Bend.

Here is Blue & Gold Illustrated's half-by-half recap of the Irish victory.

FIRST HALF

It was a sloppy start for both programs during the first nearly five minutes with the teams combining for seven turnovers and four early fouls. Junior forward John Mooney was the victim of two of the fouls sending him to the bench.

Irish freshman guard Prentiss Hubb scored the first four points of the game with a pair of free throws and a layup.

Illinois responded with four-straight free throws to tie it up before guard TJ Gibbs and wing DJ Harvey each hit a jumper to give Notre Dame an early 8-4 lead. Brad Underwood’s group again pushed right back with a 5-0 run behind a three-pointer from guard Aaron Jordan and a layup from guard Andres Feliz.

Gibbs countered with a personal 5-0 run knocking down a triple and a layup to again give Notre Dame a slight lead.

However, the Illini caught fire over the next near two minutes going a 9-0 run to obtain their largest lead at 18-13 with 12:08 remaining in the half. Both teams had six turnovers up to that point.

The game of runs continued after Illinois made it an 11-0 run (20-13) before the Irish reeled off a 7-0 spurt to tie the game back up at 20 with the help of a technical foul on the Illini. Irish freshman guard Robby Carmody exited the game during this stretch with a left shoulder injury.

At the under-8 media timeout, Illinois led 22-20 with both teams hitting 7-of-17 from the floor and having seven turnovers apiece. Gibbs pace all Irish scorers with seven points.

Notre Dame used a quick 5-0 run, which was fueled by a three-pointer from Gibbs, to regain the lead at 25-22. The two teams traded baskets over the next three minutes with the Irish leading 30-28 going into the under-4 media timeout after a Hubb three-pointer.

Hubb’s triple was the last basket the Irish would hit over the final 3:36 capturing four free throws from Harvey the rest of the way.

The drought allowed Illinois to take a 35-34 advantage into the break. Carmody returned to action during the final minute of play.

For the half, Notre Dame shot 37 percent (10-of-27) overall and 23.1 percent (3-of-13) behind the arc while committing turnovers. Gibbs led all Irish scorers with 10 points while Hubb added seven to go with six from Harvey.

Illinois committed 10 turnovers during the opening 20 minutes, but the Illini were able to connect on 41.4 percent of their shots (12-of-29) to hold the early lead. Underwood’s group knocked down 5-of-12 (41.7 percent) three-point attempts.

SECOND HALF

Both teams began the final half a little better than the first with each connecting on three of their first five shots.

Mooney, Harvey and Goodwin each recorded buckets for the Irish while big man Giorgi Bezhanishvili, Jordan and Feliz did the same with the latter two connecting on three-pointers to give Illinois a 43-41 lead with 15:57 remaining.

During the early stages of the half, Mooney picked up two more fouls forcing him back to the bench with four in 10 minutes played.

After falling behind 47-44 with 14:25 left, the Irish went on a 7-0 run to regain the lead and inject some life into Purcell Pavilion. Hubb completed a three-point play to get the run going.

A couple of possessions later, Hubb tossed a deep pass to guard Rex Pflueger on the other end who found big man Juwan Durham in the lane for the bucket and a foul. Durham missed the free throw, but secured a key block on defense which led to a Gibbs three-point play.

The junior connected on the free throw to give the Irish a 52-47 lead with 11:42 left.

Durham continued to make his presence known later in the half with another big block on an Illinois shot attempt down low, which led to a three-point from Gibbs after the Irish pushed the ball up the court. The basket capped off a 14-0 run by the Irish to go up 58-47 with 8:39 left.

A jumper from Illinois guard Trent Frazier finally ended the Notre Dame spurt, but Durham brought Purcell Pavilion to its feet when he connected on a layup while getting fouled from an assist via Gibbs. The junior converted the and-one chance to push the Irish advantage to 61-49 with 7:47 remaining.

Harvey would connect on a three-pointer moments later to give Notre Dame its largest lead (13 points) at 65-52.

Illinois didn’t go away however slowly chipping away at the Irish lead closing it down to 68-60 at the under-4 media timeout with Jordan knocking in four points to help spark the run. Bezhanishvili cut it to 68-62 with a pair of free throws with 3:27 left.

Jordan would drop in a three-pointer about a minute later to put the Illini within four at 69-65 and a pair of free throws from guard Da’Monte Williams made it a one possession contest with 1:33 left.

Then Durham showed back up.

Harvey hit a pair of free throws to give the Irish a two-possession advantage. Durham erased an Illinois shot on the other end and got out in transition for a thunderous dunk to help close out the Illini giving Notre Dame a 73-67 lead. Durham would again block an Illinois attempt on the very next defensive possession to ignite the Irish team and crowd on hand.

While an Irish victory seemed almost certain, Illinois made it quite interesting over the final minute.

With some help with missed free throws from the Irish, The Illini went on a 7-1 run over a 17-second span behind buckets from guard Ayo Dosunmu and Frazier and a 3-pointer from Jordan to make it 75-74 Irish with under 10 seconds remaining.

The Illini quickly fouled Pflueger to send the senior to the line. Pflueger missed the first but made the second to give Illinois a chance to tie or take the lead with 5.8 seconds left.

Frazier would get a good look from the three-point line and his shot went halfway in, but came back out giving Notre Dame a 76-74 victory over the Illini.

Despite shooting 56.5 percent (13-of-23) in the second half, Notre Dame hit just 50 percent of its free throw attempts (13-of-26) during the final 20 minutes to allow Illinois to hang around.

Harvey and Gibbs led the way for the Irish with 19 points while Durham had a career-high 10 points to go with five blocks to spark the team with Mooney in foul trouble.

Notre Dame shot 46 percent (23-of-50) for the game while connecting on just 6-of-19 (31.6 percent) of the team’s three-point attempts and 24-of-39 (61.5 percent) from the charity stripe.

Jordan and Bezhanishvili combined for 45 of their team’s 74 points. Illinois shot 40.6 percent (26-of-64) from the field while making 37.5 percent (9-of-24) behind the arc.

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