Conference road game no easier as Notre Dame falters at Florida State

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Down by three with under two minutes remaining but defending well enough to win an Atlantic Coast Conference road game, Notre Dame seemingly had an upset of No. 18 Florida State in its sights Monday.

The Irish were rolling. The Seminoles were wondering.

Maybe in any other year, the visitors get this one. Not this year. Not with this Irish team.

So (relatively) smooth shooting and scoring for most of the night, Notre Dame went over five minutes without a field goal and ran out of time and chances in a 68-61 loss.

Notre Dame led for 25:28 out of the 40 minutes.

"We gave ourselves a chance; we just couldn’t finish it," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "That's kind of been a little bit of the story of us, maybe not mature enough or mentally tough enough to finish against a really good team.

"They made the plays when they had to because they’ve won a lot."

Sophomore D.J. Harvey led the Irish (13-15; 3-12 ACC) with 18 points. Freshman Prentiss Hubb added 17.

Underclassmen combined for 43 points for the Irish.

"Some of my young guys really battled," Brey said. "We’re just getting them experience."

Up by as many as eight in the second half, Notre Dame trailed for the first time in the final 20 minutes following a Devin Vassell 3 with 6:33 remaining. That gave the home team a 57-55 lead and some life and likely forced the Irish to start wondering how they could get it done, on the road, in league play. Again.

A John Mooney rebound bucket tied it at 57.

Tied at 33 after a fine and focused first half that saw the Irish get big contributions from their young guys, the visitors returned with a solid start in the second half. And when Hubb drained a wing 3 in the opening minutes, Notre Dame was up eight and rolling.

The Irish had two possessions to get back up double digits, but couldn’t convert two Hubb free throws or an open wing 3 from Nate Laszewski. An M.J. Walker 3 brought the Seminoles back within five. A Terance Mann floater got the Seminoles to within three. Two Hubb free throws silenced that run.

Notre Dame led by five with 10 minutes remaining and by four with under nine minutes remaining following a Hubb fade jumper. A Mfiondu Kabengele bucket and foul brought Florida State back within one with just over eight minutes left.

D.J. Harvey answered that with a baseline jumper to push it back to three.

Having lost three in a row and four of the last five, the Irish juggled their starting lineup since the insertion of swingman Nik Djogo led to a win at Boston College earlier this month. Djogo started six straight games before Brey decided to give Juwan Durham, one of three Florida guys on the Irish roster, a start back in the Sunshine State.

Djogo was ruled out for Monday’s game with a shoulder injury suffered during Saturday’s loss to No. 20 Virginia Tech. No Djogo on Monday meant that five Irish had missed a combined 45 games to illness and injury this season.

Monday was Durham’s fifth start in his first season at Notre Dame. It was his first start since the mid-January home game against Syracuse. Durham struggled at the start, giving up three baskets right at the rim. That included a drive by Mann where he just dunked right over a flat-footed Durham.

Durham finished with two points and four rebounds with four fouls in a career-high 24 minutes.

Winning in northwest Florida has been but a rumor since Notre Dame joined the ACC. Monday was Notre Dame’s fourth trip to Tallahassee, and fourth time it left the Tucker Civic Center with a loss.

According to ESPN’s Basketball Power Index, Florida State had a 91.2 percent chance of winning Monday. Somebody forgot to tell that to the Irish. A Hubb 3 capped an 8-0 and allowed the visitors to open its largest lead of the half – 27-17 with 6:27 remaining. Florida State closed on a 16-6 run to tie it at 33 at the break. Twenty-seven of the Irish points were scored by underclassmen. Notre Dame led for nearly 13 of the first 20 minutes.

The Irish started relatively well, hitting seven of their first 16 shots from the floor and three of five from 3. A Hubb 3 allowed Notre Dame to open a five-point lead not even halfway through the first half. Harvey got going from the jump. He scored the first seven points for the Irish. Nobody else in blue scored for the first six-plus minutes before Dane Goodwin, who was a combined 0-for-14 from the floor the previous five games, connected on a 3.

Hubb and Harvey combined for 16 points the first 9:44.

Much of the early work for Notre Dame was done without anything from its two top scorers. T.J. Gibbs and Mooney were scoreless the first 15:42. Mooney also was sent to the bench with two fouls. The first 22 Irish points and 27 of the first 30 were scored by underclassmen.

Monday also marked the last of Notre Dame’s Saturday-Monday league swing. The Irish finished both segments 0-4 with each loss to a ranked team.

Notre Dame is 0-8 against ranked teams this season. Its run of three of four on the road to end the regular season continues Sunday with a visit to Louisville, which fell out of the national rankings in Monday’s latest Associated Press poll.

Florida State had its school record of eight straight league wins snapped Saturday at No. 5 North Carolina. The Seminoles entered Monday having lost only once at home — to then-No. 1 Duke — earlier in league play.

Should the regular season end today, Notre Dame would finish league play in 14th place — its lowest ever in the ACC. That would put the Irish in one of three first-day tournament games next month at the Spectrum Center in Charlotte. Notre Dame would play at 7 p.m. on Tuesday against the No. 11 team. Right now, that’s Miami (Fla.), at 4-11 in league play. The Irish scored a season low 47 points in a loss to the Hurricanes earlier this month.

NOTRE DAME (13-15): Durham 1-1 0-0 2, Mooney 5-9 3-5 14, Hubb 6-15 2-4 17, Gibbs 2-9 0-0 4, Harvey 6-14 4-4 18, Laszewski 1-3 0-0 3, Goodwin 1-5 0-0 3. Totals 22-56 9-13 61.

FLORIDA ST. (22-6): Cofer 0-4 0-0 0, Koumadje 5-7 2-2 12, Walker 4-8 0-0 9, Forrest 2-3 4-6 8, Mann 4-8 0-0 8, Kabengele 3-11 4-7 10, Nichols 1-6 2-2 5, Polite 0-1 0-0 0, Savoy 1-2 0-0 3, Vassell 5-6 0-0 13. Totals 25-56 12-17 68.

Halftime_33-33. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 8-21 (Hubb 3-6, Harvey 2-3, Laszewski 1-2, Goodwin 1-2, Mooney 1-3, Gibbs 0-5), Florida St. 6-19 (Vassell 3-3, Savoy 1-2, Walker 1-4, Nichols 1-5, Cofer 0-1, Kabengele 0-2, Mann 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Notre Dame 23 (Mooney 8), Florida St. 34 (Vassell 7). Assists_Notre Dame 9 (Gibbs 5), Florida St. 12 (Forrest 4). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 14, Florida St. 12. A_9,519 (12,100).

Florida State guards Devin Vassell (24) and MJ Walker, right, tie up Notre Dame guard D.J. Harvey (5) in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, Feb. 25, 2019.
Florida State center Christ Koumadje (21) gets his hand caught in the net as his layup is blocked by Notre Dame forward Juwan Durham in Tallahassee, Fla., Monday, night.