The Notre Dame Fighting Irish welcomed the Illinois Fighting Illini to Purcell Pavilion for a round of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Both teams are really young this season, and both teams rank 11th in their respective conferences in terms of age/experience.
It showed right away.
It was a sloppy first half for both teams, but in particular for Notre Dame as John Mooney got into foul trouble early, and both teams had a large number of turnovers. Shooting was bit erratic, and Notre Dame’s shot selection was really suspect for a lot of the half.
It was the better 3 point shooting of the Illini, and in particular Aaron Jordan, that helped Illinois head into the half with a 35-34 lead.
The second half started to see more of the same, but a feisty T.J. Gibbs and accurate D.J. Harvey helped the Irish build a double digit lead on Illinois about halfway through the half.
Illinois fought hard behind Jordan and Giorgi Bezhanishvili with a big run, and climbed back into the game to make it just a 2 point game with 1:30 in the game.
The Irish were able to pull away in the end with shaky free throw shooting and some amazing play from Juwan Durham. The UConn transfer was lights out on defense with his shot blocking, but he was also incredibly effective as a scorer in the paint. He finished with 10 points and 5 blocks.
Illinois did make it interesting with about 14 seconds left and two misses from Prentiss Hubb at the line. Jordan drilled a 3 (23 points) and then fouled Notre Dame with 5.8 seconds left. Rex Pflueger was 1-1 from the line, and Illinois got one nice shot left down 76-74 — but missed.
It was a hard fought victory over a big conference opponent, and should help with their confidence as they have a string of big conference opponents coming up.
Robby Carmody went out early with a shoulder injury, and his status is unknown at this time.