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WHO MADE RED PANDA MAD? A Thorough Recap of Notre Dame’s Loss to Duke

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Pat Rick recaps Notre Dame’s 84-74 loss to Duke

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

In ancient times, whole civilizations of people used to explain away disasters and catastrophes with the notion that the gods they worshiped were mad at them and punishing them for their sins and misdeeds.

Today, our civilization uses a lot more #facts and #science and #reason to determine the causes of bad things, but sometimes, on the surface, there is no obvious root reason for the occurrence of an event.

Considering the Notre Dame men’s basketball program’s sterling 5-1 record in games where Rong Niu does what she does best during halftime, every scientific conclusion would lead us to believe that the #20 Fighting Irish’s Monday night game against the 21st-ranked Duke Blue Devils would abide by the same laws of nature. Red Panda (Niu’s stage name) indeed performed at halftime of this basketball game, and for a time it appeared that her magic would pull ND through again.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

But, alas, it was not meant to be, as after the Irish pulled to within 1 point with about 6 minutes remaining, Duke outscored ND 21-12 down the stretch to put them away for good, handing Notre Dame its 3rd straight loss (the first time since 2014 that’s happened) and its 4th in 5 games.

Notre Dame did something to make the Red Panda goddess angry, you guys. I have no idea what it was that did it, but something caused her to change her gaze of fondness upon us to a glare of destruction and pain.

So, before I jump into my recap of this game, let’s all try to live life this week how Red Panda would want us to live, in order to atone for whatever we did to deserve this.

Pregame

The first thing I experienced upon arriving at my seat in the upper press box was team chaplain Father Pete McCormick joining the students in their section and acting as DJ in order to get everyone hyped for this important game. McCormick claimed to go by the name of DJ McSwish and the guy sitting next to me said DJ McSwish actually DJs at the on-campus bar, Legends, occasionally. I have a new goal and it’s to attend a DJ McSwish rager at Legends.

DJ McSwish got the crowd going by playing Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” and clearly one of the best pump-up songs ever resonated with the students. The video board showed them rapping along and generally being excited about the game, and their fantastic signs they brought for the occasion were on clear display during this time. Some of the ones I caught:

  • One of those slipping hazard yellow cone things except the student made it say “Tripping Hazard” instead
  • “TripAdvisor Gave Grayson Allen 5 stars”
  • “SPORTS”
  • “Say No to Drugs”
  • “Robert Covington is an elite defender”
  • The below picture tweeted by Angelo Di Carlo, which includes a creative “Things Longer Than Grayson’s “Suspension”: Jay Bilas’ Hair” and in the background a sign that is clearly proclaiming Grayson Allen drinks O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beer LOL

There were countless other signs I couldn’t see from the press box and that I didn’t catch on the video board, so please let me know what other fantastic signs you saw so they can get credit where credit is due.

After surveying the student section and their awesome turnout, my gaze fell back to the court, where former Stanford Hall B2 Basketball player Joe Fennessy, now retired from intramural basketball to focus on his budding career as a Leprechaun, was once again getting his shots up. Let’s review how last game went:

Clearly something to build on, right? This game was bound to be the one where Fennessy breaks through and really shows his stuff, right?

Unfortunately, no. Fennessy let his B2 roots shine through in his inability to hit very many shots. He is an expert at fouling, I am sure, but his shooting, as most of us who went through the B2 program would say about ourselves as well, left something to be desired. His performance before this game was a harbinger of things to come:

  • Missed 3-pointer
  • Air-balled free throw
  • Missed 3-pointer
  • Swished 3-pointer
  • Missed 3-pointer
  • Missed granny-shot style free throw
  • Missed granny-shot style free throw
  • Missed 3-pointer
  • Missed between-the-legs layup
  • Missed half court shot
  • Banked-in 3-pointer
  • Missed half court shot
  • Missed free throw
  • Missed free throw
  • Drained a 3-pointer and walked off the court in style

To sum all that up, my main man Joe shot 30% from long range and 0% from the free throw line. This was actually superior to Notre Dame’s 22.2% 3-point shooting in the first half, but overall not an improvement for Mr. Leprechaun.

Look for him to bounce back strong against Wake Forest next Tuesday, though. I’ve got a feeling he’s about to shoot the lights out in that one.

Okay, now to the game.

1st Half

Duke Starters: F Amile Jefferson, F Jayson Tatum, G Matt Jones, G Grayson Allen, G Luke Kennard

ND Starters: The same ole crew

The game started fairly well for the Irish, getting one or two stops and scoring first, as BONZIE COLSON got an offensive board and a bucket as the student section tossed a metric ton (estimated) of newspaper confetti into the air.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The student section made themselves known soon after that newspaper-shard-throwing extravaganza, as they made sure to boo loudly and protractedly whenever Grayson Allen touched the ball.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

As the game got a few minutes in, it was clear that Martinas Geben was going to have trouble against Duke’s quick, athletic big men, and Amile Jefferson easily bypassing him for a layup once or twice quickly led to him being replaced by Rex Pflueger, who the student section greeted with a short and sweet “SEXY REXY” chant.

At the under-16 media timeout, the score was a barn-burning 6-2 in favor of the Blue Devils. A Matty Farrell pull-up 3-pointer made it 6-5 at around the 14:45 mark, and Pflueger coming up with a loose ball and threading a nice pass in transition to White Steve gave the Irish the lead back at 7-6.

At the under-12 timeout, Duke had taken a 13-10 lead on the back of Kennard and Jefferson, who had moved on from Geben and was now giving BONZIE the business down low. During that under-12 timeout, the Leprechaun made a reappearance on the court, this time with a surfboard in tow as he helped advertise some sort of Anthony Travel package for anyone interested in going to next season’s Maui Invitational, I think. No matter what it was for, I support the idea of a small fictional Irish creature surfing in Maui.

After VJ Beachem and a Duke player traded 3-pointers, Beachem managed to get a steal and turn it into an easy fast break dunk, putting ND up 19-16 with about 8:30 left in the half. The crowd was very loud at this point, but with no Noise Meter in sight, it was hard to tell just how loud they really were.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Immediately after that, Duke’s Matt Jones drained a 3-pointer to tie the game and shut everyone up, which brings me to an observation I’ve made: I have never seen a team be so good at stringing together a few nice plays and stops to go on a run, only to give up some sort of big play by the other team that kills all crowd noise and momentum. It’s uncanny how this ND team lets that happen, every time.

During the next timeout, the student section continued to be an unruly mob after my own heart, executing a flawless and VERY LOUD “MIKE! BREY!” chant.

Despite that great chant, the crowd noise coming back into the game from the timeout was just “Loud” on the Noise Meter, not even bothering to reach “Roaring.” The fans needed something to cheer for, as they had already shown they were ready.

What followed was an 18-6 Duke run to close the half that involved a lot of Luke Kennard and Grayson Allen making shots and a lot of Notre Dame players turning the ball over or missing ill-advised shots.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

During this run, there were some questionable no-calls by the refs on ND drives to the hoop, and because of that, the student section pulled another classic maneuver and chanted “NOT MY REF! NOT MY REF!” It was fantastic and the humor was much-needed considering how poorly ND was playing in the first half.

Jayson Tatum got hit in the eye at one point as well, and as the game stopped to make sure he was okay, the Purcell DJ started playing that Justin Timberlake song from that troll movie and the students sounded like they were chanting “CRY! CRY! CRY!” at Tatum as he stood at half court rubbing his eye. Considering my brother and I used to chant that at our littlest brother growing up (because we are mean), I wholeheartedly approve of this bullying tactic.

Halftime Score: Duke 37, Notre Dame 25

Duke Halftime Stats: Grayson Allen led the way with 10 points, Luke Kennard added 8, Matt Jones had 7, Jayson Tatum had 6 points and 7 rebounds, and Amile Jefferson chipped in 6 as well. Duke shot 53.6% from the field and 57.1% from 3-point range. They hit 3 of 3 free throws.

ND Halftime Stats: VJ Beachem led the way with 9 points, BONZIE COLSON had 6 points and 5 rebounds, and Farrell and White Steve added 5 points apiece. No one else on the team scored in the first half. ND shot 26.9% from the field, 22.2% from 3-point range, and 75% from the free throw line.

Halftime

Before the main event, ND once again honored a long-time fan of Notre Dame basketball. This time it was a fellow by the name of Eldon Heatwole. That’s all I caught about him, but that is one heckuva name and I approve of him as Fan of the Game.

Now, for the headliner...

This game’s halftime act was the immortal and beautiful goddess of all that is good, Red Panda. Instead of describing her act for you, I’ll just let you watch it:

Obviously, on a scale of 1 to Red Panda, I award Red Panda a “Red Panda” rating.

At the time, I thought for sure such a great performance would once again give the Irish the magic to pull this one out, despite being down by 12. I even put my spotless reputation on the line via a tweeted prediction for the second half:

Not everyone was so confident though. Check out what my friend Pat sent me via Snapchat at one point before the halftime show:

He will be very pleased that I screenshotted this and added it to my article
All credit goes to my ability to screenshot Snapchats quickly

I refused to believe this could possibly happen, especially when Red Panda made it through her harrowing 5-bowl-flip finale unscathed.

Oh, how wrong I was.

2nd Half

To start the second half, the video board urged everyone in the crowd to stand up and get loud by employing the always-effective “Take a StaND” message where the N and D in ‘stand’ are the interlocking ND logo. It didn’t do much, but VJ Beachem starting the half off with a nice pull-up jumper did. The crowd began to buzz.

The crowd continued to buzz after TJ Gibbs took the ball aggressively to the hoop and got a bucket, making it 39-29 a couple minutes in. After a Kennard travel as a result of his failed attempt to fake out White Steve (silly Kennard), Beachem knocked down a deep ball to make it 39-32. On the ensuing Duke possession, TJ Gibbs played airtight defense on Grayson Allen that forced Allen to push off and get called for an offensive foul.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The crowd was absolutely lit at this point, and as the Noise Meter was indeed used to measure, I can confirm that the crowd got to a “Full Domer” level of noise. It was awesome, and it only got louder as Allen was called for a foul after White Steve made him look foolish with a behind-the-back dribble move.

During the timeout, most of the crowd was standing and loud and it was fantastic. However, as play was about to resume, nearly all of the non-students in the crowd sat back down. What in the world? Why stand and be loud when nothing is happening but then sit quietly as the team resumes its comeback attempt? This kind of behavior from ND fans in all sports just baffles and frustrates me to no end.

After Duke got a second-chance bucket to make it 41-34 with about 17 minutes to play, Duke had the ball out in transition and had Jayson Tatum driving hard at the basket with just one man in his way. That man was White Steve, and being the wily vet he is, and knowing Tatum was a freshman dead-set on going right to the hoop, Steve set up shop in Tatum’s path and waited. And he was there for a while:

Tatum was not daunted, and proceeded to jump directly into White Steve, barreling him over as he laid the ball in the basket.

The ref called a blocking foul and an and-one.

Tatum was hurt on the play, and so Amile Jefferson came in to shoot the free throw. He missed it, because

On the subsequent ND possession, Gibbs made another fantastic drive to the hoop, laying the ball in as he drew a foul.

Except, the ref called the foul on the floor, and not a shooting foul, despite it clearly being a shooting foul.

This string of bad calls by the refs struck a nerve in the typically loose and calm and friendly Mike Brey, and he said something to the ref that earned him a technical foul.

Kennard hit the two free throws to make it 45-34, but the technical definitely helped the team get a little fired up, as BONZIE immediately scored on a runner after a nice pump-fake, and then the defense held serve on the other end to force a missed shot and an Blue Devil offensive foul on the rebound.

ND had an inbound play after the ball went out of bounds, and this happened:

With the score 45-38 now and the crowd back into it, Kennard and Beachem exchanged jumpers to make it 47-40. Grayson Allen was then gifted two free throws on what really was just nice defense by Gibbs, and as he shot them, the student section pulled no punches as they chanted “GRAYSON’S A BITCH!” over and over again. Allen hit both, though, as he has proven to be pretty unflappable (probably because they keep letting him pull punk moves out there):

After some more action from both sides, Jayson Tatum absolutely abused VJ Beachem’s poor defense to make it 56-46 at the under-12 timeout.

During that timeout, ND’s video board once again put forth a segment in the “Anatomy of a Champion” anthology, and this time it talked about the hands, arms, and heart of BONZIE. The ignorance when it comes to anatomy is ridiculous with the Purcell crew, but I’ve already stated my opinion on that and will belabor this point no further.

After Austin Torres drew an offensive foul on Tatum, Gibbs pulled up for three with his man sagging off of him just a bit too much, allowing him to knock it down and make it a 7-point game with just under 11 minutes left. After a Harry Giles over-the-back, BONZIE went to the line and made one of two free throws.

With a 56-50 score, Matt Jones converted an and-one to increase the Duke lead by 50%. ND then looked on the brink of a complete collapse as Torres missed a few free throws and Gibbs had the ball stolen from him in the backcourt, leading to a layup and a 63-50 deficit. My friend Pat’s prediction was lurking.

Uh oh

Nevertheless, I still clung to the hope that the Irish had some Red Panda magic ready to use, despite the 7-0 run Duke went on in a matter of 41 seconds.

And indeed, the Irish drank deep from Red Panda’s Secret Stuff during the timeout, as they came out and immediately got a BONZIE bucket, forced an Amile Jefferson double-dribble, Pflueger got 3 the old-fashioned way, and Matty Farrell drained a 3-pointer to make it 63-58. The crowd was “Full Domer” again, and got even louder when Duke traveled heading into the under-8 timeout.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

During said timeout, Purcell did a fantastic job maintaining that level of energy for the crowd.

Well...sort of.

They started by playing “Sandstorm” and that was obviously effective in keeping the student section lit. But they followed that up by bringing the Pom Squad out for a performance set to — you guessed it — Sean Paul’s new hit song “Temperature.” The crowd was less-than-hype for that, but soon regained its excitement as the teams returned to the court.

BONZIE managed to hit a short jumper and draw a foul, but missed the free throw to complete the three-point play. After Tatum pushed off White Steve because White Steve was all over him with great defense, White Steve found BONZIE open behind the defense for a layup that made it a 63-62 game and brought the crowd once again to earsplitting “Full Domer” levels.

With a chance to take the lead on the next possession, White Steve had a nice take to the hoop but missed a tough layup, leading to a Grayson Allen three pointer on the other end.

NCAA Basketball: Duke at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

After another Allen jumper to extend the lead to 6, Matt Farrell hit just one of two free throws to make it 68-63.

During the under-4 timeout with the Irish down 70-63 now, the video board proclaimed VJ Beachem as Player of the Game due to his 20 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots. Beachem proceeded to brick a jump shot coming out of the break, and then later Pflueger hit just one of two free throws after drawing Kennard’s fifth and final foul.

A couple more Duke baskets extended the Blue Devil lead to 10 with 2:30 remaining, and the wheels were clearly coming off the Fighting Irish-mobile.

I’m sure he will like this one’s inclusion the best

From there the game essentially involved Duke making the rest of its free throws and all of ND’s players not named Gibbs or Pflueger missing shots.

Pflueger and Gibbs hit back-to-back threes to make it 80-72, and then after Gibbs got a couple free throws the next trip down, he managed to steal the ball in the backcourt and feed it to fellow frosh John Mooney, who had been put in the game because it was garbage time. Mooney pulled the trigger on an open corner three that could have cut it to 5 with 30-ish seconds left, but he missed it. Duke then closed out the game, winning 84-74.

Final Duke Stats: Grayson Allen led all scorers with 21 points, Jayson Tatum had 19 points and 14 rebounds, and Luke Kennard and Matt Jones each contributed 16 points. Duke shot 51.9% from the field, 41.7% from 3-point range, and 95.8% (23 of 24) from the free throw line. The Blue Devils out-rebounded the Irish 38-26.

Final ND Stats: VJ Beachem led the team in scoring once again with 20 points, BONZIE COLSON had 17 points and 9 rebounds, TJ Gibbs had 12 points, and Matt Farrell had 11. The Irish shot 42.9% from the field, 33.3% from 3-point range, and 67.9% (19 of 28) from the charity stripe.

Random, Very Relevant Observations

  • THERE WERE TWO PEOPLE DRESSED AS GUMBY IN THE BAND FOR THIS GAME AND THEY WERE BOTH PLAYING THE CYMBALS. IT WAS STUPENDOUS TO SEE THAT
  • Duke is a good team, but with the amount of talent they have, it was telling that I never thought ND couldn’t hang with them during this game. If the Irish play better and make free throws at the clip they had been hitting them at, this game comes down to the wire. They’re entirely capable of beating anyone if they’re clicking on offense, period
  • I’m starting to think Notre Dame isn’t nearly as good at free throws as their hot start made us believe. In 5 of their past 6 games, ND has shot 67.9%, 63.6%, 64.7%, 73.3%, and 65% from the charity stripe, with the lone exception being a 15-for-16 performance against Syracuse. Maybe it’s fatigue, but this team has got to go back to making free throws if they want to be competitive against the best teams in the ACC
  • Torres and Geben are contributing very little down low right now, aside from some hustle plays. This is making Brey go small with his lineups, which leads to people like White Steve guarding people like Jayson Tatum and that’s just not fair. This also leads to Beachem having to guard someone like Luke Kennard and that’s also not a good thing. Brey has gotta figure something out inside to help BONZIE out and to allow this team to match up with opponents with any sort of post game...maybe let John Mooney get some time?!?
  • Farrell and White Steve combined to go 4-for-18 in this game. That is unacceptable from a starting backcourt of a senior and junior who average about 30 combined points per game. White Steve especially has been bad on offense recently, but Farrell hasn’t been much better, especially considering his shot selection. These guys HAVE to improve, and fast
  • TJ Gibbs was absent for the final meltdown when Duke ran away with the game, and then when he came in once the game was no longer in doubt, he immediately made things happen. Too little too late, but Brey has gotta start trusting the kid in key situations. He’s valuable on both ends and is one of the only guys on the team who can get to the basket off the dribble (along with Farrell and White Steve, who are both currently playing poorly and thus Gibbs’ minutes become even more important)
  • I wish Beachem could play any sort of defense on a consistent basis, because pairing that with his scoring ability would make him absolutely lethal
  • Tweets I saw that I liked:

Heck yeah, Grandpa

MARTY YOU DAWG

As someone in the background of lots of photos, I appreciate this guy in the background of this photo

Hey there

This tweet that was tweeted for some reason

No explanation necessary:

Explanation very necessary, but I do not have one

And finally, this love story for the ages that SOMEONE BETTER TWEET ME THE CONCLUSION OF...DID BRENDAN EVER ASK THE LOVE OF HIS LIFE TO THE FORMAL?? OR NO, BECAUSE ND LOST?

That’s all I’ve got, folks. I don’t know if we will ever know what we did to piss off Red Panda and bring her wrath upon us when it seemed she was going to shine her light on us lucky fans again, but hopefully we can get back in her good graces before Saturday’s tilt at North Carolina. This ND team could use any and all positive mojo heading into that one.