Home league win again eludes Notre Dame

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — What once seemed so effortless, so easy, so routine has become the impossible.

Remember the days when Notre Dame would run off crazy consecutive win streaks at home in Purcell Pavilion? The Irish would win five, 10, 15 in a row at times, most of those in conference play. And against big-name opponents. What's happened to those days?

Playing its third Atlantic Coast Conference home game of the season, Notre Dame lost for a third time at home Wednesday, an 84-82 setback to Syracuse at Purcell Pavilion.

A John Mooney rebound fueled by a Prentiss Hubb steal brought the Irish within two with 9.5 seconds remaining. Freshman Joe Girard then hit two free throws. T.J. Gibbs added the final basket. It got salty after the final horn when Girard took the ball and stuck it in Gibbs' midsection. Gibbs had to be restrained from going after Girard.

The Irish fell to 11-7, 2-5 in the ACC. Now 4-0 on the road in league play, the Orange improved to 12-7; 5-3. The Irish went 2-7 at home in league play last season.

“I don’t have any answers, other than to keep trying,” said Irish coach Mike Brey.

Notre Dame finished with 23 assists to only seven turnovers and shot 45.6 percent from the floor, all numbers that should have added up to a home win.

“I’d say we’d win by seven,” Brey said of the tally.

Notre Dame led for 53 seconds late in the second half before tumbling into a four-point deficit with 4:02 remaining. It went to six with 2:32 left. A big reason was that the Irish couldn't make a shot and went nearly five minutes without a bucket.

“I thought we were getting good looks,” said graduate student guard Rex Pflueger. “It’s disappointing.”

With the home team down by as many as 13 in the second half, the building finally woke up when Hubb tossed in a prayer 3 from deep to beat the shot clock off a possession that was going nowhere. The ball went somewhere. And when it rattled in, the Irish had shaved a double-digit deficit to three, 68-65, with 8:14 remaining.

Mooney followed with a bucket to bring it within one. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim already was working with his suit coat off, a sure sign it was getting heated in the arena.

Dane Goodwin then gave the Irish their first lead of the half with 5:58 left off a backdoor cut and feed from Mooney, who delivered another double double with 21 points and 13 rebounds. It was his 12th double double in a row, which set the school record, and 15th this season.

The Irish were looking to sweep the season series from Syracuse for the first time since 1997.

Elijah Hughes led the Orange with 26.

“Hughes is fabulous,” Brey said. “I don’t know how to guard him.”

The second half deficit got to 13 before the Irish were able to get some stops and make some shots. But when it jumped back to 13, Pflueger walked down the floor in front of the Irish bench with his head down.

There was no energy on the floor or in the stands. Everyone was just kind of there.

The flu kept Gibbs out of practice on Monday, but he was back in the starting lineup two days later. Gibbs went to the locker room at the first timeout, reportedly because he puked during the first timeout. He was back about two minutes later, and headed right to the scorer’s table to check in. He rarely came out the rest of the first half.

Gibbs spent a long stretch on the bench in the second.

“He’s hurting,” Brey said of Gibbs, who played 34 minutes. “He gave us what he could.”

These teams got up and down the floor a whole lot the first time around — an 88-87 Irish win — and picked up where they left off early Wednesday. Notre Dame connected on six of its first eight shots, including a pair of 3s from Gibbs, to grab a 14-12 lead at the under-16 minute timeout.

A run of 3s — one from Goodwin and another from Nate Laszewski — allowed the Irish to push their early lead to 23-15. Another Laszewski 3 stretched the lead to nine, 28-19. It jumped into double figures (30-19) with 10:45 remaining following a pair of Juwan Durham free throws.

All was well for the home team, right? Wrong. Syracuse got going offensively, knocking down a couple 3s and getting to the rim with relative ease. The Orange ripped off 13 unanswered to grab a two-point lead. Goodwin stopped that spurt with a 3 before more back-and-forth shot making.

Syracuse closed an entertaining first half on a 7-0 run — capped by a Hughes 3 in the closing seconds – to take a 46-42 lead at the break.

It was the largest lead for the Orange in a first half that featured two ties and 15 lead changes.

“The first half, we couldn’t stop them and they couldn’t stop us,” Boeheim said. “I still think they’re a good team. They are right there.”

A moment of silence was observed before Wednesday’s game for legendary high school coach Morgan Wootten, who died Tuesday night at age 88. Wootten was a long-time coach at DeMatha (Md.) Catholic High School in suburban Washington. Brey played under and later coached with Wootten at DeMatha.

“I miss him,” Brey said of Wootten.

Irish associate head coach Rod Balanis also is a DeMatha graduate.

DeMatha graduates who played at Notre Dame are Sid Catlett, Adrian Dantley, Jerian Grant and Bob Whitmore.

Wednesday started a stretch of four of the next five league games at home for Notre Dame. Next up for the Irish is that one road game — Saturday at No. 5 Florida State. It’s the first of two regular-season meetings with the Seminoles.


At Purcell Pavilion

SYRACUSE (84): Girard 4-14 4-4 15, Hughes 9-18 4-4 26, Boeheim 5-14 0-0 10, Dolezaj 3-7 3-6 9, Sidibe 6-6 0-0 12, Guerrier 3-5 3-3 9, Goodine 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 31-65 14-17 84.

NOTRE DAME (82): Hubb 3-10 0-0 8, Gibbs 5-10 0-0 13, Mooney 8-17 5-7 21, Goodwin 6-15 0-1 15, Pflueger 3-6 0-0 8, Laszewski 4-8 0-0 11, Durham 2-3 2-2 6. Totals 31-69 7-10 82.

Halftime_Syracuse 46-42. 3-Point Goals_Syracuse 8-25 (Hughes 4-8, Girard 3-10, Goodine 1-1, Guerrier 0-1, Boeheim 0-5), Notre Dame 13-36 (Laszewski 3-6, Gibbs 3-7, Goodwin 3-9, Pflueger 2-5, Hubb 2-9). Rebounds_Syracuse 37 (Girard 9), Notre Dame 31 (Mooney 13). Assists_Syracuse 14 (Girard 5), Notre Dame 23 (Mooney, Pflueger 6). Total Fouls_Syracuse 14, Notre Dame 14.

Syracuse Notre Dame BasketballNotre Dame’s Juwan Durham, right, blocks a shot by Syracuse’s Marek Dolezaj (21) during the first half of Wednesday’s game in South Bend, Ind.
Notre Dame’s John Mooney, front, looks for a shot as Syracuse’s Bourama Sidibe (34) defends during the first half of Wednesday’s game in South Bend.Syracuse Notre Dame Basketball