Noie: Good guards give Notre Dame a good game, win

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

{child_flags:featured}Good guards

get ND

good win

{child_byline}By Tom Noie

South Bend Tribune{/child_byline}

SOUTH BEND — A mutual admiration moment between two Notre Dame guards unfolded early Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish bounced back from their baffling loss to Radford earlier in the week with a pull-away-and-look-decent-doing-it 73-64 victory over William & Mary before guards T.J. Gibbs and Prentiss Hubb met the media.

The junior Gibbs praised the freshman Hubb and his ability to be an aggressive play-maker, a difference-maker, an adrenaline shot for a starting lineup that had lacked it. Hubb praised Gibbs for his guidance and his game. Gibbs countered by saying he feels as comfortable playing with the kid from Washington this year as he did working last year with the old man from New Jersey, former Irish guard Matt Farrell.

Hubb just shrugged and smiled after enjoying a career day.

“This guy,” Gibbs said smacking Hubb. “I can’t praise him enough for how he’s been playing. He’s done a great job of doing it all.”

The two connected during the week in practice, then clicked in the game. They flowed. It was no coincidence that Gibbs had his best game of a young season of struggles starting alongside Hubb.

“I had nothing to do with that,” Hubb said. “It was a matter of time until he showed out. It wasn’t me.”

Whatever the reasons for the end results, the home team was good Saturday because those guards were good. Gibbs scored a season-high 18 points, half from the foul line and two on his first collegiate dunk. Hubb delivered career bests for points (11), rebounds (four) and minutes (31). Like Gibbs, who delivered a left-handed breakaway slam in the second half, Hubb also had his first career dunk. That one was a two-hander off a baseline drive with a little biceps flex at the end, also in the second half.

Hubb slid into the starting lineup after performing well in practice the last couple of days. He pressured the ball. He got it into the hands of the guys who needed it. He just ran stuff and fit in with a veteran perimeter of Gibbs and fellow captain Rex Pflueger.

“It takes a lot of pressure off,” coach Mike Brey said of having Hubb do what he did. “You just got another handler, another play-maker. It’s kind of like, let’s just have him in the game to start.”

Hubb was considered a key guy since preseason practice in October. But he wasn’t ready then. He still was learning how to be a good college guard, still shaking off the rust from a reconstructed right knee that cost him his senior year of high school, still finding his way. He admittedly wasn’t good the first couple games out. He played young. He agreed that he was good Saturday. He played old.

“The main part of it is my mindset,” Hubb said. “Not playing for a whole year threw me off a little bit. I’m back in the flow of things and everybody bringing me back up has done a lot for me.

“Now I’m just more confident in myself.”

Gibbs insisted confidence wasn’t a problem for him despite his shooting struggles that extended one week, then two, in the regular season. He still struggled Saturday — 4-of-13 from the floor, 1-of-4 from 3 — but kept plugging instead of pouting.

Gibbs and Hubb had plenty of company in the good-game department. Junior power forward John Mooney piggy-backed a double-double for points and rebounds earlier in the week with his second of the season and third in his career. He scored 12 of his 13 points in the second half and added a game-high 11 rebounds.

Sophomore swingman D.J. Harvey scored a season-high 15 points in 27 minutes. That he played more minutes Saturday than he did Wednesday (20) in the loss to Radford wasn’t a mistake, mainly because Brey didn’t make the same one.

Harvey played only six minutes in the second half Wednesday because Brey brought him to the bench during one lineup change and forgot to get him back in.

Oops.

That’s what happens when the head coach has so many rotation combinations swirling in his head. Kind of forget about a guy. That looked to continue early Saturday, when 10 players all saw the court in the first 10 minutes. Brey lost his suit coat (by design) in the opening minutes of the second half. It looked like his mind might follow.

Notre Dame had trouble shaking a middle-of-the-road Colonial Athletic Association team. It was tied at 49 with 9:24 remaining. The Irish ripped off a 15-2 run that flipped a game that featured 14 ties and 16 lead changes the first 32 minutes into a one-sided affair.

The way the Irish looked and played and succeeded Saturday might change next time out against Duquesne. Will be the same starting lineup, but different guys offering different stuff. Still, for one day, for one game, the Irish found something that clicked for more than a few minutes.

“This is one step,” Gibbs said, ‘to a great team and a great season.”

Whoa. Let’s not go there just yet. Saturday was a start. Of what? Something? Nothing? To be determined.

• NOTRE DAME 73, WILLIAM & MARY 64

At Purcell Pavilion

WILLIAM & MARY (1-3): Knight 5-10 8-10 18, Milon 3-7 3-3 11, Owens 4-6 0-0 11, Loewe 3-4 0-0 6, Blair 3-8 0-0 7, M.Harvey 0-0 0-0 0, Scott 0-1 0-0 0, Williams 1-5 0-0 3, Audige 3-7 0-0 8. Totals 22-48 11-13 64.

NOTRE DAME (3-1): Mooney 5-11 3-4 13, Hubb 5-10 0-2 11, Gibbs 4-13 9-12 18, Pflueger 1-6 4-4 6, D.Harvey 6-12 0-1 15, Laszewski 1-3 0-0 2, Durham 2-2 0-0 4, Burns 0-1 0-0 0, Carmody 1-3 0-0 2, Goodwin 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 26-63 16-23 73.<

Halftime—William & Mary 28-27. 3-Point Goals—William & Mary 9-26 (Owens 3-4, Audige 2-5, Milon 2-6, Williams 1-2, Blair 1-5, Scott 0-1, Loewe 0-1, Knight 0-2), Notre Dame 5-20 (D.Harvey 3-4, Hubb 1-3, Gibbs 1-4, Carmody 0-1, Laszewski 0-2, Mooney 0-3, Pflueger 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—William & Mary 27 (Knight 7), Notre Dame 37 (Mooney 11). Assists—William & Mary 16 (Knight 6), Notre Dame 10 (Pflueger 4). Total Fouls—William & Mary 20, Notre Dame 13. A—6,511 (9,149).

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Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb (3) dunks during the Notre Dame-William and Mary NCAA men's basketball game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Prentiss Hubb (3) drives against William and Mary’s Mehkel Harvey (30) during the Notre Dame-William and Mary NCAA men's basketball game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.
Notre Dame’s Robby Carmody (24) dishes out a pass as William and Mary’s Matt Milon (2) defends him during the Notre Dame-William and Mary NCAA men's basketball game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 at Purcell Pavilion in South Bend.