Notre Dame Pulls Out Unlikely 64-62 Win Over Toledo
It might be a little overblown and too early in a season to call a 64-62 comeback victory, at home, in overtime, against Toledo, a signature or marquee win.
But with everything that went down for the Irish Thursday night at the Joyce Center, perhaps overblown is apropos.
“Holy Toledo!,” is how Irish head coach Mike Brey described a game that took a miracle buzzer-beating three-pointer from sophomore forward Nate Laszweski to cap a seven-point comeback to reach overtime.
And after that, a backdoor cut and clutch layup by senior captain Rex Pflueger late in the extra stanza for a 60-59 lead the Irish (5-1) clutched and squeezed for a win that meant a lot in the immediate, but perhaps much more in the future as a building moment.
“I’m so proud of our group because it didn’t look too good a lot of times,” said Brey, whose team had another lousy shooting performance with 32-percent overall (23 of 73), 23-percent from three-land (8 of 35) and 59-percent foul shooting (10 of 17).
Notre Dame made up for its poor shooting with solid defense, holding the Rockets (3-2) to 17 points below their 88 scoring average, and to only 6-of-27 three-point shooting.
But ultimately it was the clutch three-pointer from Laszweski and the backdoor cut from Pflueger, with the assist from senior guard T.J. Gibbs, that made the difference and sent one disappointed Toledo coach home.
“I gotta be honest, that one hurts, we gave it away,” said Rockets head coach Tod Kowalczyk, whose team led for the last 16 minutes of regulation until Laszeski’s game-tying shot. “I thought tonight we were the better team.”
Pflueger’s final numbers were solid — eight points, five assists, five rebounds and six steals — but the timeliness and importance of his big plays continues to feed this team and be a big part of its five-game winning steak.
“He makes every play, big play, clutch play,” Brey said. “Such a winner, a key backdoor cut.”
Sophomore Dane Goodwin led the Irish with 16 points. Gibbs added 11 and Laszewski had 10 to round out the Notre Dame double-digit scorers.
The Shot Heard ‘Round The Bend
Coming into this game, with just two made three-pointers in his 16 attempts (13 percent), not even Laszewski could’ve guessed that his number would be called during a time-out — down three with 1.5 seconds left in regulation — to take the game-tying buzzer shot.
But that’s exactly what happened, and Laszewski delivered, tying the game at 55-55 as the regulation horn sounded.
No accident or last-second adjustment here, that was the play called during the timeout.
“All my coaches, all my teammates, they told me if I have great looks just keep shooting, it’s going to fall,” Laszewski explained of keeping his confidence up through his shooting slump. “When Coach Brey told me just to step up and take it, that gave me a lot of confidence.”
The sophomore combo of Laszewski and Goodwin carried the day and kept Notre Dame in the game.
Goodwin scored 11 straight points (which included three three-pointers) during a critical stretch midway through the second half that brought Notre Dame from down 41-34 to within 47-45, a critical stretch and an important moment for two substitute sophomores who are going to be relied on this season.
“We’re coming into new roles his year,” Goodwin said. “We gotta be those guys that take some shots and I think we’re well on our way.”
Mooney Not Right
After missing Monday’s game with a stomach ailment, Irish star forward John Mooney was back in the lineup, but clearly not at full strength against Toledo.
Mooney managed 31 minutes and finished with a gritty defensive effort for 15 rebounds.
Offensively is where he struggled, undoubtedly after fighting the flu and with Notre Dame playing its fifth game in 13 days. Mooney was only 3-of-11 from the field, 0-of-4 from three, and 1-of-5 from the foul line for seven points.
Fairleigh Dickinson heads to Purcell Pavilion Tuesday at (7 p.m.) in the what will be the final of six straight home games for Notre Dame before the Irish take a week off before playing next Wednesday at No. 6 Maryland as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.
Fairleigh and ND played no common opponents last year in what became a magical season for the Knights.
FD finished 21-14 overall and upset top-seeded St. Francis in the Northeast Conference Championship to earn a NCAA Tournament berth against Prairie View A&M in a first-four matchup in Dayton.
FD prevailed 82-76 in Dayton before being ousted by top-seeded Gonzaga in the Round of 64.
The Knights beat FDU-Florham Devils in its 2019 season opener before losing three straight to DePaul, Fordham and Army.
FD plays Sunday at Lafayette before coming to Notre Dame.
ND and FD met one other time, a 75-57 home in 2014 for the Irish.