Notre Dame cruises past Boston College in ACC tourney opener

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

GREENSBORO, N.C. — One down, three to go.

Needing to win four games in four days to get to the NCAA Tournament, if there even is an NCAA Tournament, No. 7 seed Notre Dame beat No. 10 seed Boston College, 80-58, Wednesday in a second round Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament game at Greensboro Coliseum.

“When you look up and can get it to 80, that’s a good night for the Irish,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in a post-game television interview.

Five Irish scored double figures led by 16 points from senior guard T.J. Gibbs. It was Notre Dame’s most lopsided ACC Tournament win in their seven seasons. The teams had split their two regular-season games, each one decided by one point.

Notre Dame (20-12) advances to Thursday’s quarterfinals (7 p.m., ESPN) to face No. 2 seed and 17th-ranked Virginia (23-7). The teams met once during the regular season with the Cavaliers winning by one, 50-49, in overtime on Feb. 11 in Charlottesville.

“They’ve had our number over the last couple years,” Brey said.

Virginia leads the all-time series 13-2. Notre Dame’s only win as ACC colleagues came in the 2017 ACC Tournament.

Notre Dame never trailed and allowed Boston College to get to as close as seven in the second half. A late 3 from Prentiss Hubb pushed the Irish advantage into the 20s. They led by as many as 22.

Brey juggled his starting lineup for one of the few times this season. Out went power forward Juwan Durham, who had started all 31 games this season. Brey wanted more spacing/offense on the floor. A finalist for the league’s sixth man of the year, Goodwin made his second start of the season.

Goodwin finished with 15 points and seven rebounds. Durham had 12 points and four rebounds.

A Goodwin curl through the lane and mid-range jumper pushed the Irish advantage into double figures for the first time, 20-9, at 8:24. Up to that point, the Eagles had taken 17 shots; they’d missed 15.

Durham was in the game and the scoring column but down on the ground hurting before the second media timeout. He was smacked in the face by teammate Nate Laszewski while waiting for a defensive rebound. Durham was evaluated by the team’s medical staff and cleared to re-enter the game late in the first half. He promptly got a dunk and a baseline jumper.

Durham scored seven straight in one stretch to help the Irish open a 15-point lead. That moved to 18 with a Laszewski 3. Whatever the Irish wanted to do on both ends of the floor, they did it. With little resistance from the other guys. If the Irish wanted to find Laszewski for an open 3 from deep, they did. If Durham wanted to operate in the lane with little push-back, he did. And if Hubb wanted to take off from somewhere near Raleigh on a drive and get to the rim for an easy lay-in, he did.

Notre Dame never trailed and led by as many as 18 in the first half. A 7-0 Eagle run made it somewhat interesting before the break. Somewhat.

With conferences around the country announcing that its tournaments would go on as scheduled but with no fans in their arena stands, it was business and basketball as usual in the ACC on Wednesday, the second night of the league tournament in Greensboro.

That changed at halftime of the Notre Dame game, which made Wednesday’s game against Boston College the last one this season for Notre Dame in front of fans. The league released a statement at intermission of Wednesday’s first game of the night session: “In light of the rapidly changing landscape regarding COVID-19, the latest developments nationally from health authorities and today’s announcement by the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, the ACC will alter the remainder of the ACC Tournament. After consultation with the league’s presidents and athletic directors, it was determined that beginning Thursday, March 12, all games will be played with only essential tournament personnel, limited school administrators and student-athlete guests, broadcast television and credentialed media members present.”

Notre Dame entered Wednesday’s game having won 14 of the last 15 in the series, including 13-1 as ACC colleagues. The Irish also started the second round having won at least one league tournament game in each of the previous five seasons. The only time Notre Dame didn’t win a tournament game was in 2014, the team’s first year in the league.

It was ACC Tournament win No. 10 all time for the Irish.

Boston College was without Nik Popovich, who did not make the trip. Popovich did not play in the teams’ first meeting because of back issues.

Wednesday was the first league tournament game for Notre Dame back in Greensboro Coliseum since it won the 2015 tournament. It wasn’t the first time the Irish have been in the building for a game since that Cinderella season. Notre Dame and North Carolina played a regular-season league game in Greensboro on Feb. 4, 2017.

A water main break on the North Carolina campus that weekend forced a site shift for that game, won by the Tar Heels.

Brey joked last week that he would channel all the karma possible remaining from 2015, right down to finding the same style of green dress shirt that he wore all three games during that tournament. He instead chose to go with a blue dress shirt.


{p class=”text-ind”}Felder 1-4 1-2 3, Mitchell 5-8 10-11 20, Williams 2-6 0-0 6, Heath 6-12 0-0 15, Thornton 0-9 0-0 0, Jar.Hamilton 1-5 0-0 2, Jai.Hamilton 5-11 1-2 12, Rishwain 0-3 0-0 0, Kraljevic 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 20-59 12-15 58.

NOTRE DAME (20-12)

{p class=”text-ind”}Mooney 4-11 0-0 8, Gibbs 5-10 5-6 16, Goodwin 6-14 1-1 15, Hubb 5-12 0-0 14, Pflueger 2-4 0-0 5, Laszewski 4-9 0-0 10, Durham 3-5 6-8 12, Djogo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-65 12-15 80.{p class=”text-ind”}Halftime: Notre Dame 36-21. 3-Point Goals_Boston College 6-20 (Heath 3-6, Williams 2-5, Jai.Hamilton 1-2, Jar.Hamilton 0-1, Rishwain 0-2, Thornton 0-4), Notre Dame 10-25 (Hubb 4-9, Laszewski 2-5, Goodwin 2-6, Pflueger 1-2, Gibbs 1-3). Rebounds: Boston College 32 (Mitchell 15), Notre Dame 37 (Mooney 11). Assists: Boston College 7 (Heath 3), Notre Dame 19 (Hubb 9). Total Fouls: Boston College 16, Notre Dame 16.

Notre Dame power forward John Mooney defends Boston College forward Steffon Mitchell during Wednesday’s second-round ACC tournament game.
Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey didn’t wear a green dress shirt to Wednesday’s ACC Tournament game after previously joking that he would to channel good luck from the 2015 Irish trip to Greensboro, N.C. Fighting Irish head coach Mike Brey yells out in the first half against the Boston College Eagles during the first half at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports