After losing lead against Texas A&M, Irish have little to show for trip to Las Vegas

David Woods
Indianapolis Star
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey reacts to a foul call during the first half of the team's NCAA college basketball game against St. Mary's at the Maui Invitational in Las Vegas, Monday, Nov. 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

LAS VEGAS — If Notre Dame had held on Monday to beat Saint Mary’s, this week and this season would look entirely different. The Fighting Irish might have won a fifth successive in-season college basketball tournament, considering Saint Mary’s nearly pulled it off at the Maui Invitational.

Instead, the Irish leave Las Vegas as so many other visitors have — with next to nothing. They did not beat an NCAA Division I opponent.

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Texas A&M overcame a 14-point deficit, forcing 12 second-half turnovers, and defeated Notre Dame 73-67 late Wednesday night in the fifth-place game at Michelob Ultra Arena.

“The tick, tick, tick of pressure, pressure, pressure kind of broke us finally,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said.

The Irish built their lead to 41-27 on Blake Wesley’s 3-pointer with 16:40 left. And the margin was still 10 with about 12 minutes to play.

Notre Dame's Blake Wesley (0) drives to the basket during the Notre Dame vs. High Point NCAA men's basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.

Slowly, inexorably, the Aggies ramped it up. After a 22-point first half, they scored 51 in the second, featuring 18 points off turnovers.

A&M coach Buzz Williams, a familiar foe to Brey from battles in the Big East at Marquette and ACC at Virginia Tech, said he turned over halftime to a freshman — Wade Taylor IV, jersey No. 4.

“He started the conversation, and our guys responded to what he had to say,” Williams said. “What he said was the truth. All I did was echo what ‘4’ was saying. Didn’t scream. Didn’t yell.

“I think our chance is to play incredibly hard.”

For 28 minutes, Brey said, the Irish weathered it. Two free throws by Hissan Diarra pushed the Aggies ahead 55-54 with 7:48 left, and they never again trailed.

It all happened so fast.

“It does take its toll. Eventually, it’s going to come,” Brey said. “Can you hold it off? And we couldn’t. I feel for our guys because they’re usually better with the ball.”

Senior guard Prentiss Hubb was charged with eight of Notre Dame’s 18 turnovers, six of them in the second half.

Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin (23) shoots over High Point's John-Michael Wright (1) during the Notre Dame vs. High Point NCAA men's basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.

Dane Goodwin scored 18 points, Paul Atkinson Jr. and Hubb 11 each, and Wesley 10 for Notre Dame (3-2). Quenton Jackson scored 18, Diarra 17 and Taylor 14 for A&M (6-1).

Notre Dame lost to St. Mary's 62-59 and beat Chaminade, the Division II host from Hawaii, 90-64. Wisconsin erased a 10-point deficit to beat Saint Mary's 61-55 for the championship.

Notre Dame went into the game ranked 14th nationally in offensive efficiency at 112.1 points per 100 possessions (according to KenPom.com), and was limited to 0.96. More than half of the Irish’s 48 shots were 3-point attempts, and they were 6-of-26 for 23%.

The Aggies outscored Notre Dame 60-13 in bench points. Eleven A&M players logged nine to 28 minutes, and the collective onslaught seemingly wore down Notre Dame’s seven.

“As far as the group that’s going to either do it or not, that group’s going to have to do it,” Brey said.

However, he said he hopes to expand the rotation to eight with insertion of 6-8 Elijah Taylor, a redshirt freshman. Taylor has been recovering from flu symptoms.

The Irish (3-2) play Monday at No. 14 Illinois and Dec. 3 at Boston College. Their next home game is not until Dec. 11 against Kentucky.

Contact IndyStar reporter David Woods at david.woods@indystar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidWoods007.

TEXAS A&M 73, NOTRE DAME 67

TEXAS A&M (6-1): Brown 0-2 1-6 1, Coleman 0-3 1-2 1, Gordon 1-1 1-1 3, Radford 2-6 0-0 4, Williams 2-7 0-0 4, Jackson 8-11 1-2 18, Diarra 4-9 7-11 17, W.Taylor 5-8 2-5 14, Henderson 2-2 0-0 4, Obaseki 2-4 1-2 5, Cash 1-1 0-0 2, Hefner 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-55 14-29 73.

NOTRE DAME (3-2): Atkinson 4-5 3-5 11, Laszewski 3-8 0-0 7, Goodwin 4-10 8-8 18, Hubb 2-7 6-9 11, Ryan 2-7 2-2 7, Wertz 1-5 1-2 3, Wesley 3-6 3-4 10. Totals 19-48 23-30 67.

Halftime—Notre Dame 32-22. 3-Point Goals—Texas A&M 5-11 (W.Taylor 2-2, Diarra 2-4, Jackson 1-2, Hefner 0-1, Radford 0-2), Notre Dame 6-26 (Goodwin 2-5, Wesley 1-3, Laszewski 1-4, Hubb 1-5, Ryan 1-6, Wertz 0-3). Fouled Out—Cash, Wertz. Rebounds—Texas A&M 26 (Williams 5), Notre Dame 31 (Goodwin 8). Assists—Texas A&M 15 (Williams, Jackson, W.Taylor 4), Notre Dame 15 (Wertz 6). Total Fouls—Texas A&M 24, Notre Dame 22.