SOUTH BEND — It should have been enough to seal this one up.

The way Notre Dame downshifted to a smaller lineup 27 seconds into the second half and found an offensive flow. The way the Irish dug in and defended and got a couple big stops at big moments. The way they seemed to be pushed along by the home crowd, who were up and on their feet and cheering late instead of heading for the parking lots. The way they battled back from the verge of being boat-raced by No. 13 Louisville.

The way this one was seemingly there for their taking. All of it should have been enough.

Maybe in another season with another Irish team, one that truly knew how to close out close conference contests at home with confidence, it would have been enough. But not with this group. Not yet. And not Saturday as Notre Dame fell two stops short and a shot or two shy in a 67-64 loss at Purcell Pavilion.

When it comes to winning time — at home, in Atlantic Coast Conference play this season — something happens to the collective confidence of everyone in this program. The head coach. The staff. The upperclassmen. The underclassmen. The fan base. Everyone. There’s still a feeling that it’s not going to happen — and then it doesn’t — after so many seasons of it happening. These are games Notre Dame has to get. Still, it doesn’t.

It’s been two years and counting of this uncertainty. With the near-misses. With the chances to take a step but instead, a stumble. When’s all the karma going to change? Next week? Next month? Next year? Never? If it ever does, it will help this program look more like it used to and less like it currently does.

Like the one that scores only five points on its home floor the final 5:25? Like the one that can use a timeout in the closing seconds but doesn’t. Like the one that keeps the one guy (sophomore guard Dane Goodwin) who gave you something on the offensive end on the bench at the end.

A second home league loss without a win dropped Notre Dame to 10-6 overall, 1-4 in the ACC. Three of those league losses are by a combined nine points. The Irish have lost their two league home games by a combined four points. Both were getable. At the end of 40 minutes, both were regrettable. It’s more of the same for a team that often talks of poise, particularly under pressure, but one that doesn’t always play with it.

Like at the end. Notre Dame had the ball in a one-possession game and the chance to get within one with a quick bucket, or maybe even tie it with a 3. The Irish drained all of the final 35.2 seconds and never did get a clean look, a good look, a high-percentage look.

T.J. Gibbs dribbled some seconds away. Rex Pflueger dribbled some seconds away. John Mooney tried to ball screen. For no one. Prentiss Hubb got to the rim with 7.6 remaining but left it short. Mooney wound up with the ball and three seconds left, but his desperation chance from the wing didn’t have a prayer.

“When we’re down three and 23 seconds left, we can get a quick two so we were looking for that,” Mooney said. “That didn’t happen.”

Nothing really did. Notre Dame looked unorganized and unsure when it needed to be sure and steady. Do they even practice game situations? After Saturday, who could be sure.

Irish coach Mike Brey decided against calling a timeout that might settle everything down and set something up. Even if he could have stopped the clock to get Goodwin in the game, that might have mattered. He chose to let it play out. When it was over, Brey wished that he’d had gotten Goodwin in the game. He also stressed that in no way was the game decided on those frantic and futile seconds.

“We lost it before the final possession,” Brey said. “Game was freaking over.”

Over because two bad defensive possessions by an Irish outfit that had been pretty good on that end for the second half, doomed this one. Both possessions resulted in 3-pointers from Dwayne Sutton, a 36.4 shooter from 3 this season. His first one dropped the Irish in a one-point hole with 3:21 left. His second one put them down 3 with 1:58 left. Up by as many as four with 5:27 remaining, you could almost see the collective shoulders of the Irish sag.

“Just gotta finish those games,” Goodwin said.

Finish them by doing something that’s going to get this group to believe. Get those two stops and they believe. Get Hubb to drop in a 3 in front of the Irish bench with the home team up seven and under five minutes remaining and they believe. Instead, his shot doesn’t drop and the stops don’t surface. Belief then slips out the arena’s back door.

“We’re going to have to make those plays to do it,” Brey said.

Still, the Irish had chances at the end. Be better in the final possession, and maybe the outcome is different. Maybe they’re playing one or two or five overtimes like these teams did back in 2013. Maybe the Irish escape with a needed league home win. But a team that has talked of being so poised in close contests really hasn’t been all season, save for at Syracuse.

Would’ve been nice to see some of that Saturday.

There have been plenty of tough league losses to take over the last year-plus. Lopsided losses. Close losses. Losses to unranked teams. Losses to ranked teams. Saturday’s setback really stings. It showed that yeah, Notre Dame can compete. What it can’t consistently do is close out games to sustain success in this league. Notre Dame won on the road the previous Saturday. Couldn’t win at home in this one. One step forward, two steps back. Again.

That inconsistency’s on everyone to be better. The head coach. The seniors. The sophomores. This program’s long been one that found ways to figure it out for games and weeks and months at a time. Now?

“There’s always time in this league to do something,” Brey said.

Maybe not enough.

LOUISVILLE (13-3): Nwora 7-15 2-2 20, Sutton 4-11 0-0 10, McMahon 6-10 2-2 17, M.Williams 3-8 0-0 6, Kimble 3-4 0-0 6, Perry 0-2 1-2 1, Enoch 1-8 0-0 2, Johnson 2-4 1-2 5, Williamson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-62 6-8 67.

NOTRE DAME (10-6): Gibbs 6-8 2-2 15, Hubb 3-14 0-0 8, Mooney 7-18 0-1 15, Pflueger 2-8 0-0 6, Goodwin 5-10 0-0 14, Durham 2-6 0-0 4, Laszewski 1-2 0-0 2, Djogo 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 26-67 2-3 64.

Halftime_Louisville 36-24. 3-Point Goals_Louisville 9-20 (Nwora 4-8, McMahon 3-5, Sutton 2-3, Enoch 0-1, Johnson 0-1, Perry 0-1, M.Williams 0-1), Notre Dame 10-31 (Goodwin 4-8, Pflueger 2-5, Hubb 2-10, Gibbs 1-2, Mooney 1-5, Djogo 0-1). Rebounds_Louisville 37 (Sutton 14), Notre Dame 36 (Mooney 19). Assists_Louisville 14 (Kimble 4), Notre Dame 17 (Hubb 8). Total Fouls_Louisville 13, Notre Dame 9.

tnoie@sbtinfo.com

(574) 235-6153

Twitter: @tnoieNDI

(14) comments

Caldwell

Almost a mirror image of the Indiana game, and fast becoming Brey formulaic. First the Irish were about to be run right off the floor, but then they staged an impressive comeback. Finally, and on perfect cue, they collapsed and folded at the finish. So Brey's Irish are now 1-4 in conference play, and 2-6 overall. The good news is that Brey seems to have found his shaving kit, so the Head Basketball Coach at the University of Notre Dame no longer looks like a train-hopping hobo. So there's that.

nyona lake

Just a thought, but Goodwyne(sp) hits four threes the second half and a couple rebounds when needed the second half. Stayed and listened to Breys post game show and he praised Goodwyn. My question is where was he the last 30 seconds of the game when we needed a basket when everyone else was running around like they did not have a clue what to do. OH, that's right, he was setting on the bench when they needed him I am so tired of hearing how Brey is a perfect fit for N.D. Second year in a row with only seven players. If you are using academics for recruiting then get out of the ACC and join the Ivy League. If you want to compete with the ACC then you need to play by the same rules as the rest of the league or get out.

Cowboy Mike

Amen!!

Caldwell

"I am so tired of hearing how Brey is a perfect fit for N.D. "

In 1972 USC defeated Notre Dame 45-23 at the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC tailback Anthony Davis scored six touchdowns, and after each one, he celebrated by sliding and dancing on his knees in the end zone. The following year Notre Dame defeated USC 23-14 in South Bend, and a critical play in the victory was a spectacular 85 yard touchdown run by halfback Eric Penick.

While being interviewed after the game, a reporter suggested Penick might have concluded his run by sliding and dancing on his knees. Penick was appalled and disgusted at the very thought: "On my knees?", he asked incredulously. "I'm no hot dog. This is Notre Dame". Now compare the behavior and sentiment of 20 year-old Eric Penick, with an uncontrolled and half-naked Head Coach Mike Brey raucously performing a series of muscle-man poses after the Maui Invitational. So no, Mike Brey is not, and never has been, a good fit for Notre Dame.

rays1969

At least you need to learn how to spell the players name if you want to give a lucid comment. Goodwin couldn't guard anyone in this game. He gave up at least 4 baskets by my count in this game to who he was guarding. That may be one reason he was on the bench. I like Dane alot and he is a good player but has to be better at defense if he wants to be in the game at the end.

PAIRISH9

It's simply time or Mike Brey yo go! how many times do we all have to sit and watch the final possession look like a 6th grade pick up game at recess?? It's tough to argue that his late game coaching is the worst in the country. We're looking at a 3rd straight season without an NCAA bid, but maybe Jack Swarbrick is happy with that.

nyona lake

Should of been academics as a excuse.

Ndcowboy

Yes, the Brey formula in close games that has about a 20% success rate. Go scoreless over the last 4 or 5 minutes. Dribble around the last 30 seconds and throw up a prayer...goes all the way back to Chris Thomas, Chris Quinn, to Grant versus UK to current. Tom I think the evidence is clear, either they don't practice closing out or the coaching evaporates in the game. Brey in many things, some very good, but closing games out and game management in the last few minutes has never and will never be a strength...maddening to watch over and over again

Ludwig von Football

You have a great memory and you are correct.

giants24

Its so true we have lost alot of games with the ball and last shot of the game to many times! Could have been in at least 3 final fours in last 10 years if we made or even got off a shot! Love Brey but he is snakebitten in final seconds of games for sure!

Irishbball7

When they were having trouble a time out needed to be called to set up a play. We have to lockdown on there shooters. Mooney needs help on the boards.

Tom M

That terrific comeback has to give them the confidence that they can do it. The wins will come. Stay the course.

Paul Privitera

Gibbs was too quick and athletic for his defender and beat him driving to the hoop often. Last possession: Dane in game, spread offense, get TJ ball on top quickly, TJ take it to the basket. Score 2 quickly. Defender can’t play tough since a basket and foul could tie game. If a 2nd defender gets in paint to help defend, Gibbs hits open man for a 3. Louisville was in 1-in-1 situation so a missed free throw gives us chance to win with a 2. If they hit 1st and miss 2nd, a 2 ties it and 3 wins it. Just foul worst free throw % shooter on the court. Even if they make both free throws, a 3 sends it to OT.

nyona lake

I agree with most of what you said, but my question is very simple, why wasn't Goodwin in the game at the end? Had a time out to call and get him back in. He kept us in the game most of the second half. I guess Brey makes the big bucks but seams pretty simple to me.

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