Irish get close, but Sooners close it out

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

NEW YORK — Good effort, but not good enough to win, at least not yet for Notre Dame in the first game Tuesday of the annual Jimmy V Classic doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.

The Irish battled back from a double-digit deficit in the second half but couldn’t do enough at the end against Oklahoma in an 85-80 loss.

John Mooney had 15 points and a career-high 14 rebounds for the Irish (6-2). Juwan Durham added a career-high 15 points.

Notre Dame had its four-game win streak snapped.

Down by 11 earlier in the second half, Notre Dame got within one, 78-77, on a Prentiss Hubb drive with 2:25 remaining. Christian James then gave the Sooners more breathing room with a 3 to make it 83-78 with 1:29 left. Two D.J. Harvey free throws made it another one-possession contest, 83-80, with 1:17 left.

The Irish had chances to get closer, but Rex Pflueger missed two free throws and T.J. Gibbs missed on a drive. James then followed with two free throws with 18 seconds left to push the Sooners up five.

Notre Dame never did score again.

James led the Sooners (7-1) with 25 points.

Free-throw shooting hurt the Irish, who went 11-of-19 from the line, 8-for-13 in the second half.

Notre Dame fell into a double-digit hole —47-36 — with 16:55 remaining, but finally found some offensive flow to climb back in. A 2/3 zone helped the Irish get some stops and get out and get some easy buckets. Like a 3 and a drive from Gibbs, and then two Mooney paint touches and buckets. Notre Dame ran off nine unanswered points to climb back within two, 47-45, with 15:51 remaining.

Durham then finished a transition opportunity with a dunk to give the Irish a 50-49 lead with 13:50 left. Miles Reynolds responded with a 3 to make it 52-50. Brady Manek added another 3 to make it 55-50 before two more Durham buckets. Durham added two more after that.

Whether against man or zone, the Sooners made a lot of shots from 3. Oklahoma connected on 15, a season high for an Irish opponent.

Making shots has been an issue this season and that continued Tuesday. Notre Dame missed its first nine shots before a Mooney rebound follow 3:39 in. It already was Mooney’s seventh rebound. He entered Tuesday’s game having grabbed at least 10 rebounds in four-straight games. He got No. 10 only 12 minutes in. His 10th led to a Hubb drive and score to give the Irish their first lead at 27-26 after they trailed by as many as eight.

The Irish led by as many as two and trailed by as many as nine in the first half. They were down, 43-36, at intermission. Mooney had his fourth double double for points and rebounds in the first half, when he had 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds, one shy of tying his career high.

Oklahoma led for 15:03 in the first half and for 34:45 in the game.

Notre Dame made two of its first 12 shots and tumbled into a 12-5 hole just over five minutes in. That forced Mike Brey to ignore the first media timeout coming at the next whistle and call a timeout to get his guys organized. The Irish made eight of their first 24, but some good hustle plays/assists from Pflueger kept them close and competing.

Prior to Tuesday, only one player on the current Irish roster — Durham – had played a regular-season game in the Garden — Durham played 15 minutes as a freshman when he was at Connecticut in 2016.

Durham had six points and three blocks in Tuesday’s first half.

Both teams wore “Don’t Give Up” shooting T-shirts in honor of Jim Valvano, the late North Carolina State coach, who died of cancer in 1993.

Florida and West Virginia played in Tuesday’s second game. It was the second time Notre Dame has appeared in the Jimmy V Classic, both times against Big 12 schools. Notre Dame beat Kansas State in the Garden in 2007.

Tuesday was Notre Dame’s first game away from home after seven straight at Purcell Pavilion to start the season. It also was the first game for the Irish at the Garden since December 2013. Notre Dame had not played since a Nov. 29 home win over Illinois in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

The Irish wore their white (home) uniforms on Tuesday.

Oklahoma was without one of its key players, power forward Jamuni McNeace, who suffered an ankle injury a few days earlier in practice. McNeace is averaging 9.9 points and seven rebounds a game.

A coast-to-coast road week continues for Notre Dame on Saturday with a trip to the opposite side of the country — California — where it will face UCLA. The game serves as a homecoming for Pflueger, a native of Dana Point.

Saturday’s game tips at 10:30 p.m. eastern time

NOTRE DAME (6-2): Mooney 6-12 2-2 15, Pflueger 1-6 0-2 2, Hubb 2-10 0-2 4, Gibbs 6-16 2-3 18, Harvey 4-11 3-4 11, Laszewski 3-6 0-0 7, Durham 7-8 1-2 15, Carmody 0-2 0-0 0, Goodwin 2-4 3-4 8. Totals 31-75 11-19 80.

OKLAHOMA (7-1): Doolittle 3-5 0-0 6, Manek 6-10 0-0 17, Reynolds 2-9 4-4 9, Calixte 5-5 0-1 12, James 10-19 2-2 25, Freeman 4-8 0-0 11, Polla 0-1 0-0 0, Bieniemy 1-5 0-0 3, Odomes 1-6 0-1 2. Totals 32-68 6-8 85.<

Halftime—Oklahoma 43-36. 3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 7-27 (Gibbs 4-7, Goodwin 1-1, Mooney 1-2, Laszewski 1-4, Carmody 0-1, Pflueger 0-3, Harvey 0-4, Hubb 0-5), Oklahoma 15-29 (Manek 5-8, Freeman 3-6, James 3-8, Calixte 2-2, Bieniemy 1-2, Reynolds 1-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Notre Dame 42 (Mooney 14), Oklahoma 39 (James 11). Assists—Notre Dame 13 (Pflueger 6), Oklahoma 19 (Bieniemy, Calixte 4). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 13, Oklahoma 18.

A big night from junior power forward John Mooney wasn't enough as Notre Dame lost Tuesday to Oklahoma at Madison Square Garden.