Notre Dame's Tournament Hopes Go Up In Smoke At Wake Forest
Notre Dame’s tournament chances were slim coming into its matchup against the lowly Wake Forest Demon Deacons, but the 84-73 loss to the Deacons turned those slim chances into no chance.
Senior forward John Mooney kept the Irish in the game early, scoring 10 of the team’s first 12 points by knocking down 4-6 shots from the field and adding a pair of free throws. It would be a them for the entire game. When Mooney got hot the Irish hung with the Deacons, but when he wasn’t the Deacons pulled away.
Wake Forest broke the game open with a 19-5 run that coincided with Mooney cooling off the first time. The Deacons rode a dominant first half from 7-foot center Olivier Sarr, who scored 16 points and grabbed 10 board in the first half.
Sarr knocked down a jumper at the 3:45 mark to make it a 39-23 game, and it looked like the Deacons were going to run away with it early.
Notre Dame sophomore point guard Prentiss Hubb knocked down a triple to slow down the run, which began a mini-run for the Irish that closed the gap. The half ended with TJ Gibbs knocking down a triple to make it a 41-30 game in favor of the Deacons heading into halftime.
Wake Forest began the game red hot, but the Deacons went just 2-6 down the stretch as the Irish clawed back in the game.
The Irish offense continued its run in the second half, with the sophomore class finally getting going. Forward Nate Laszewski scored seven of the first 11 points of the half. Hubb and Dane Goodwin also got going, with Goodwin knocking down a pair of baskets as Notre Dame came roaring back.
Hubb tied the game at 55-55 halfway through the second half with a layup, and Gibbs gave Notre Dame its first lead of the second half, but Wake Forest senior Brandon Childress answered with a triple to put the Deacons back on top.
Notre Dame retook the lead on a pair of free throws from Goodwin and a dunk from Mooney, but Wake Forest responded to that Mooney dunk with a quick 6-0 run.
The Irish never recovered, and as was the case during its 5-7 stretch in December and January, Notre Dame faded down the stretch.
Wake Forest dominated the glass in the final minutes, and Notre Dame simply could not make enough stops to pull out the victory.
With Notre Dame trailing 66-63, Wake Forest had a possession with three offensive rebounds that ended with Sarr knocking down a pair of free throws. Sarr extended the lead with a putback of an Isaiah Mucius miss to put the Deacons up seven with just over two minutes remaining.
During that stretch the Irish failed to score on three straight possessions as Wake Forest built its lead to 80-68. Mooney answered with a three, but it was too little, too late.
Notre Dame falls to 18-11 overall and 9-9 in league play. The only chance for a NCAA tournament berth now is for a miraculous title run in the ACC tournament.
Mooney scored 24 points and grabbed 17 rebounds, and Laszewski and Goodwin combined for 25 points off the bench. But the struggles of the starting backcourt and the fact Notre Dame had no answer for Sarr led to the defeat.
Hubb, Gibbs and Rex Pflueger combined for just 21 points on 8-22 shooting, which included 2-8 from behind the arc.
Sarr set a career-high in scoring for the second straight game, going for 30 points on 12-16 shooting to go with 17 rebounds. Wake Forest out-rebounded Notre Dame 43-33 and knocked down 46.6% of their shots in the game. Wake Forest went 23-27 from the free throw line while Notre Dame went just 15-24, which also factored into the Deacon victory.
Notre Dame hosts #6 Florida State on Wednesday night at Purcell Pavilion. Childress added 14 points and six assists.