Second Half Surge Fuels Notre Dame Victory

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame (12-8) got back on track, overcoming a slow start to earn a convincing 90-80 victory over Wake Forest (9-11).

The Fighting Irish came into the game losers of four of the previous five contests, and all by five points or less. The Irish were sluggish out of the gate, and after senior forward Juwan Durham got the scoring started with a pair of free throws, Wake Forest went on a 9-0 run to take a lead it would not relinquish the remainder of the half.

Notre Dame battled the Deacons in the first half, but the inability to make stops kept the Irish from fully catching up to Wake Forest. Every time the Irish would make a charge the Deacons would pull back ahead, mainly behind the early hot shooting of senior guard Brandon Childress, the son of former Wake Forest star Randolph Childress.

Childress scored 16 points while making 6-of-8 shots in the opening half. The senior scored 10 of Wake Forest’s final 12 points of the opening half as the Deacons took a 41-36 lead into the break.

Wake Forest knocked down 53.3-percent of their shots while Notre Dame shot just 35.3-percent from the floor. Notre Dame was able to stay in the game thanks to forcing nine Wake Forest turnovers and an aggressive offense that allowed the Irish to get to the line nine times in the opening half, and they knocked down each attempt.

The second half was a different story. After the teams traded baskets early, Notre Dame went on a 20-8 run to take a 63-53 lead. The impressive part about that run is that standout big man John Mooney was on the bench for much of the run.

Mooney went to the bench at the 15:17 mark with Notre Dame leading 49-46. When he returned the Irish had extended the lead to 10 points. The Irish bench played a big role, with sophomore guard Dane Goodwin and sophomore forward Nate Laszewski combining to score 12 points during that run, and it was Laszewski’s triple to cap the run that gave the Irish a double-digit lead.

The Irish led by as many as 11 points on three different occasions, but Childress and 7-0 center Olivier Sarr brought the Deacons back, combining for 10 points as the Deacons made it a 77-74 game with 3:41 left in the game.

This time it was the Irish who made clutch shots to negate Wake Forest runs.

Laszewski came up big again, knocking down a triple from the right corner to extend the Irish lead. It came off a dribble drive from sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb, who kicked the ball across the court to a wide open Laszewski. That aggressiveness and willingness to move the ball and attack the Wake Forest defense played a huge role in Notre Dame’s second half surge.

Childress answered with a drive that sent him to the free throw line, where he knocked down both shots, but Irish senior guard TJ Gibbs attacked the rim and got a basket and drew a foul. The made free throw made it an 83-76 game with 2:10 left in the game.

Notre Dame had been struggling to finish over the last few weeks, but in this game the Irish put the Deacons away from the free throw line and on the defensive end of the court. The Irish did not give Wake Forest any easy baskets down the stretch and the Irish earned a much-needed league victory.

Notre Dame shot the ball ball extremely well in the second half, knocking down 17-of-32 shots. The ball movement was excellent and the aggressive play in the final twenty minutes sent to the Irish to the free throw line 16 times, and the Irish knocked down 13 of those shots. In fact, Notre Dame was 22-25 from the line in the game, which played a major role in the win.

Just as important, the Irish defense made key more stops in the second half, with Wake Forest shooting just 43.3-percent from the floor in the second half to go with seven turnovers. Notre Dame forced 16 Wake Forest turnovers in the game.

Gibbs was big for the Irish, scoring 23 points on 7-13 shooting while dishing out four assists. Mooney scored 19 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Laszewski scored a season-high 18 points on just eight shots in the victory. Goodwin chipped in 14 points off the bench.

Notre Dame’s bench combined for 32 points in the victory.

The Irish will remain at home in their next contest, which will be a noon contest on Saturday (Feb. 1) against Georgia Tech.

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