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ND Basketball vs. Miami, Detailed Recap: There is No Luck of the Irish, Only Pain

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The Fighting Irish lost another heartbreaker in a must-win game, falling to Miami 77-74. This is so sad and frustrating, you guys.

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

Well folks, same story, different day.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team, shorthanded and desperate for a decent home victory, came up just a little bit short once again, this time dropping a game to the Miami Hurricanes, 77 to 74.

With no BONZIE COLSON, no DJ Harvey, and this time no Rex Pflueger, Mike Brey and his Irish put forth another good effort, but just didn’t have enough to overcome a future NBA Draft first round pick and a bunch of really good athletes.

Not to belabor the point, let’s descend into the details of what happened.

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

Pregame

I got to this game with maaaaaybe 10 minutes until tip-off, thanks to a combination of work, people not knowing how to drive in rain, and the very few and congested entrances into the parking lots for basketball games causing very long, slow lines of cars to hold me up.

On top of being later than I wanted to be, I also left my home in Michigan without a rain jacket or umbrella, assuming South Bend would be similar to St. Joseph and not have too heavy of rain, but rather just some sprinkling action.

Needless to say, South Bend’s precipitation was a little worse than sprinkling. Pouring, driving rain left me literally dripping as I finally walked into Purcell, and that late, drenched beginning to my evening should have been a harbinger of things to come. Nevertheless, I took my seat in the press box with a sense of hope and confidence that the Irish were about to pick up a very important win over the then-18-8 Hurricanes.

That hope and confidence were immediately chipped away at, as the first thing anyone said to me when I arrived was that Rex Pflueger was out for the game with the back injury he suffered against Boston College on Saturday. Woof.

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

As I glanced around Purcell, there were TONS of empty seats for this game, and we were nearing tip-off. There were portions of rows empty in the lower levels, and huge swaths or nearly-entire sections in the upper levels completely devoid of fans. Even the students did not manage to fill in their upper sections. This was not a good turnout for what was a game that could either keep the Irish’s NCAA tourney chances alive, or crush those chances.

Starters

Miami: Ja’Quan Newton, Anthony Lawrence II, Lonnie Walker IV, Ebuka Izundu, and Dewan Huell

Notre Dame: Matt Farrell, TJ Gibbs, John “John Mutton” Mooney, Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben, Nikola Djogo

1st Half

The game began with the two teams trading leads back and forth, as The Bird Whisperer started the game’s scoring off with some free throws followed by Walker draining a three to give the Hurricanes the lead.

The Bird Whisperer answered with a basket, but then so did Miami. This went on for the first four minutes or so, as The Bird Whisperer scored his 7th and 8th points of the game at around the 16:10 mark, giving the Irish an early 8-7 lead. I began to wonder if he would just score all of Notre Dame’s points for the evening.

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

From there, though, Miami began what really became a series of alternating runs between the two teams. The Hurricanes went on a 9-0 run to jump out to a 16-8 lead, highlighted by some more Lonnie Walker jumpers.

Coming out of the first media timeout, though, Matt Farrell got on the board by burying a three pointer, and then a couple possessions later found Austin Torres for a bucket in transition to cut the Hurricane lead to 3.

Torres then somehow managed to hit a very short jumper on what was a completely ridiculous form he used to shoot. This shot followed some exceptional ball movement by all five players in the game, and so it was very rewarding to see Torres knock down a shot that wasn’t a layup or dunk. 16-15 Hurricanes, just a few minutes after having been up 16-8.

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

That one-point deficit was quickly transformed into a one-point Irish lead, as Elijah Burns (!!!!) threaded the needle with a gorgeous bounce pass to Torres, who managed to hang onto it and lay it in to give Notre Dame a 17-16 lead. Torres followed that up by drawing a charge on the other end, and Purcell, despite lacking a full crowd, was absolutely rocking heading into another media timeout.

With ND on a 9-0 run of its own, the Purcell DJ threw on Sandstorm and the crowd was just going bananas,. The students began an “Austin Torres!” chant after Sandstorm ended, and it was electric. This was followed by a Dance Cam using Walk the Moon’s hit “Shut Up and Dance,” and that got a lot of crowd energized, including some girls in the student section who did the Macarena dance to the beat of the song. I can always respect doing the Macarena to non-Macarena songs. Well played.

Also during the Dance Cam, the Purcell video board displayed the long lost aunts of Gold Jacket Guy, as a group of women in the front row of the section opposite the students were all wearing gold get-ups.

The Gold Jacket Ladies rule — and that statement has been approved by Gold Jacket Guy himself.

Just before action resumed, the DJ put on that song that basically just lists foods, and the kids in the crowd seemed to really enjoy it. I like it as well, even though I still do not know what’s going on whenever that song plays.

Okay, back to the game. Chris Lykes subbed in for Miami, and that was great to see. He’s extremely tiny — he even still looked pretty small when guarding Matt Farrell — but I knew from having seen him play before (and his highlights from high school, when ND recruited him) that he was a force to be reckoned with. He would make the Irish pay on numerous occasions in this one.

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

John Mutton has begun doing this thing where he drives to the basket and shows more aggression than I knew he had, and he did so here to draw a foul and get one of two free throws, making it 18-16 with about 10 minutes to go in the half.

There was a possession where Burns somehow ended up guarding Lykes, and I am still, right now, thanking the good Lord that Elijah Burns has both ankles intact after that.

John Mutton drew another foul on another attempted drive to the hoop, bringing us to the under-8 timeout. During this timeout, they announced the student winners of various prizes they had for Leprechaun Legion Appreciation Night, and so students were awarded prizes like Beats headphones, a $500 giftcard to Meijer, a 40-inch TV, and an Xbox One. WHERE THE HELL WAS THIS WHEN I WAS A LOYAL LEPRECHAUN LEGION MEMBER???

Also during this timeout, we got to see Harrison, a student at Notre Dame, try to win $10,000 by making a layup, free throw, three pointer, and half-court shot in 30 seconds. At first, I was like, “Okay, let’s see what you’ve got, Harrison!”

But then as he got into the contest, I realized how ridiculous this contest was. 30 seconds is not that much time. For any non-basketball player to make those 4 shots in 30 seconds would be miraculous. You’d have to basically be perfect from the first three distances in order to give yourself more than one shot at the half-courter. Hell, I don’t think most of the ND team would win this contest, because threes aren’t automatic and half-court shots are VERY HARD.

Harrison, I’m sorry you were doomed from the start. Valiant effort (despite a strange lack of urgency from you in a timed contest), and congrats on making a free throw at least, considering I’m sure I would have been stymied by that one, considering my career free throw percentage.

We returned to action knowing that Miami had not scored a single, solitary point in nearly 6 minutes of game action. Unfortunately, they would score again.

After John Mutton missed both free throws, the Hurricanes were able to rustle up a point on a Ja’Quan Newton free throw. Shortly thereafter, Farrell got a couple free throws as ND was in the bonus, but Miami’s Sam Waardenburg buried a three to tie the game immediately afterward.

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

Eljiah Burns continued his unlikely tryout for point guard, making a really nice pass to The Bird Whisperer for a bucket and a 2-point Irish lead. Torres came back into the game to a nice little cheer (never would have imagined that happening), but almost instantaneously messed up that goodwill he had garnered, picking up a very dumb foul on Huell, who had a wide open dunk he had no chance of missing.

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

On Miami’s next possession, Torres did it again, fouling Huell again on an and-one after a nice pass from Lykes. Huell missed the free throw, but with just under 5 minutes remaining in the half, Miami had taken a 5-point lead.

After a Bird Whisperer bucket, Djogo tossed a bad pass directly to Miami, who had Lykes turn it into a speedy two points in transition. 29-24 Miami at the under-4 timeout.

The Notre Dame Pom Squad performed during this timeout, not even bothering to bring their pom poms out there. Meanwhile, I noticed my guy Gold Jacket Guy was sporting an especially golden outfit, rocking gold pants and hat to go along with his typical gold jacket. Per usual, he was crushing it.

When play resumed, the Irish appeared to be in a brief downward spiral. A double-teamed Bird Whisperer got shut down, Miami hit a three, and then after a nice Farrell steal, he pulled up and air-balled an ill-advised deep ball. Here’s what I wrote in my notes about the shot:

“jesus.”

The Irish wouldn’t wilt away so easily, though, and Farrell got a layup to make it 32-26. Chris Lykes made all of Notre Dame look foolish by coming away with a loose ball rebound after the ball was tipped down court multiple times, and then he made a really pretty up-and-under move to get an and-one bucket.

With just over a minute left in the half, Miami led 35-26. Farrell again scratched and clawed to get ND back in it before halftime, draining a gorgeous and deep pull-up three to cut the deficit to 6.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Lonnie Walker is a bonafide lottery pick candidate, and he hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to give Miami a 38-29 halftime lead.

Halftime Stats

Notre Dame: The Bird Whisperer had 12 points and 4 rebounds, and Matt Farrell had 10 points, 3 rebounds, and 3 assists. The Irish shot 44% from the field, 22% from deep, and 63% from the free throw line in the first half. The team had a 1:1 assist to turnover ratio.

Miami: Lonnie Walker IV led the way with 11 points and 3 rebounds, while Ja’Quan Newton and Chris Lykes chipped in 7 points each. The Hurricanes shot 54% from the field in the half, 56% from deep, and 43% from the charity stripe.

Halftime Show

Although the result of the game wasn’t ideal, I can say without reservation that the halftime entertainment was SUPERB.

First, my main man Brandon Hardy, AKA Gold Jacket Guy, was awarded one of those autographed commemorative basketballs when they named him Fan of the Game. You may remember Brandon from the profile I did on him and a few other diehard fans a few weeks back. He is an awesome guy and an even better fan — he deserved that award.

Following up Hardy winning Fan of the Game was a performance by The Amazing Sladek, who bills himself as “America’s oldest daredevil acrobatic handbalancer.”

Of course!

The Amazing Sladek pretty quickly won over both me and the crowd, as the man dressed in a gold shirt with a LOW cut neck and in navy overalls with glittery patterns on them. ND colors, eh? Nice touch, Amazing Sladek.

To begin his performance, he jumped up onto a tiny little platform at center court, and began having an assistant hand him white chairs. He stood on the first one, then took another handed to him, and stacked that on top of the first one, climbing up onto the second in the process.

After he gets a few chairs in the air, he does a neat little handstand thing on the top chair, before then asking for more chairs. He continues to do this until at one point “Sandstorm” begins playing, and soon the crowd is going nuts as he does some wild and crazy acrobatics while balancing on top of so many chairs.

Here are some videos I captured while filming The Amazing Sladek for my Instagram story:

Overall, I thought that he was fantastic. His act was skilled enough to be impressive, but weird enough to be fun, and his showmanship was simply top-notch — not to mention his impeccable music selection, with “Sandstorm” bringing the crowd to their feet as it reached its crescendo at the same moment that The Amazing Sladek pulled off his final hand-balancing act.

I give him a 9.5 on the 1 to Red Panda scale, and I truly, sincerely, wholeheartedly mean that.

2nd Half

As we got ready for the second half, the Purcell video board urged all the fans to “Take a staND,” but unfortunately only the students and a select handful of regular fans actually stood up. Be better, you guys.

The Irish got off to a nice start to the half, as Gibbs found John Mutton for a bucket with a nice little pass, and then after the Irish forced a jump ball, Djogo got a basket on a nice lay-in in traffic after a nice pump-fake and drive from out on the perimeter. Just like that, the Irish were down 38-33.

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

After John Mutton drew a charge and whipped the crowd back into a mild frenzy, he missed a corner three that would have cut the deficit to two. The Hurricanes came down on the other end and Lonnie Walker did that thing he does where he hits big shots, draining a three pointer to make it 41-33.

John Mutton responded, though, finishing nicely on a shot under the hoop that drew a lot of contact but no foul call. Mutton refused to show consistency for too long, though, and played straight-up Olé defense, allowing a Hurricane player to blow right by him for an easy layup.

After The Bird Whisperer failed to box out Ebuka Izundu on the next Miami possession, Izundu snared an offensive rebound and got himself a bucket, extending the Hurricanes lead to 45-35. All momentum the Irish had accumulated to begin the half had disappeared.

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

Finally, Djogo got himself a putback bucket off of a miss on his own putback attempt off of a Matt Farrell missed three. Then, after getting a stop, Farrell got the ball up the floor to Gibbs in transition, who stuck a three to get himself on the board finally and to give the crowd some life, as it was now just 45-40 again.

After a Newton jumper, Gibbs got himself a really nice up-and-under basket in transition to make it 47-42, and the Purcell crowd got louder, beginning to stand up and really get into it with about 13:30 left to play.

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

On a later ND possession, with the score still 47-42, Gibbs air-balled a three with the shot clock winding down, but Torres was just doing everything right in this one, as he positioned himself right under the hoop so that Gibbs’ air-ball looked like a nice pass to the wide open Torres, who laid it in. 47-44, Miami.

A deep three from Dejan Vasiljevic stopped the bleeding temporarily for Miami, and the two teams entered the next media timeout with a 50-44 score.

During this break, the Notre Dame cheerleaders decided to hearken back to my time at ND, when Irish fans would break into the “WE ARE! N-D!” chant at the most inappropriate and embarrassing times. The Irish were down 6 on their home floor, and the cheerleaders chose that timeout, right after Miami grabbed momentum back with a deep three, to chant about how we are ND. That’s just stupid, you guys.

After the ill-advised chant, the Purcell DJ threw on the Cha Cha Slide, and despite how much I and probably a number of people in the crowd hate that song, the part with “Everybody clap your hands” STILL gets all of us to instinctively start clapping. I almost did it in the press box, but collected myself.

John Mutton continued his newfound dribble-drive tendencies by doing just that, and had his layup goaltended, making it 50-46 Miami with 11:51 to go. Chris Lykes responded in kind, though, drilling a deep step-back 2-point jumper. 52-46.

The Bird Whisperer then took matters into his own hands. He received an entry pass with the defender late to get over on him, and instead of doing anything rash, The Bird Whisperer collected the pass, waited a beat for his defender to get behind him, then backed him down, made a nice pivot, and drained a jump hook with contact, drawing a foul call. He hit his free throw (of course), and we had a 52-49 game on our hands.

This energized the assassin lying dormant inside Matt Farrell, and he came down after an ND stop and let fly a DEEP pull-up 3 off the dribble, draining it to tie it at 52 and force a Miami timeout with 10:48 to play.

My note from this play:

“that took a helluva lot of gumption to shoot that”

During the break, the Purcell DJ kept up the energy by playing some Montell Jordan. The fans should have been more excited about this than they were, though. C’mon, guys. This is how we do it!

During this break, I noticed some stats being shown on the video board, and one that obviously stood out was ND winning the points in the paint battle 34 to 16. That was striking.

After the Irish got another stop, ND came down on the offensive end and got a three-ball from Nik Djogo, because OF COURSE. I took one note for this play as well:

“djogo hits a goddamn 3, let’s rage”

Rage, the crowd did, as Notre Dame led 55-52 with 10 minutes still to play.

After the Leprechaun Legion played its usual fantastic free throw defense to force Miami to miss one of two free throws, Gibbs found himself hounded by Miami defenders as he tried to bring the ball up the floor. After a ton of uncalled contact, Gibbs persisted and found The Bird Whisperer for a hard-fought bucket, extending the Notre Dame lead to 4.

Miami quickly got those points back, though, making it 57-55 ND with 9 minutes to go. Gibbs is a competitor, in case you didn’t know, though, and he hit a running floater to make it 59-55 and to get the crowd up on their feet and VERY loud.

After a Miami bucket, the classic combination of Torres and Burns made it happen again, this time with Torres making a really nice pass while on the move to Burns, who drew contact and made his shot. He even drained his free throw, making it 62-57 ND with about 7:45 remaining.

This is where things went haywire for the Irish, as Izundu got another bucket, Burns was called for an offensive foul on a screen, Sam Waardenburg drained another 3, and then an ND turnover led to a Lonnie Walker three pointer to cap an 8-0 run for Miami and give them a 65-62 lead.

The Notre Dame offense looked all out of sorts at this point, as Djogo missed a layup and Walker drained another jumper to make it a 10-0 run. Timeout was called by Mike Brey, as his Irish trailed 67-62 now with 4:57 left in the contest.

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

After another empty possession, Miami hit one of two free throws to extend their lead to 6.

During the next timeout, the Notre Dame Pom Squad came back out, this time with their pom poms in tow. During their performance, they cast their pom poms asunder, and the students let out a loud, excited gasp. I noted that this HAS to be a good sign/omen, as the Pom Squad used to do that often but had gotten away from it this year.

Following that performance, the band played “Mr. Brightside,” and I was simply in heaven. I KNEW the Irish were going to come back and win this one. I could feel it.

Immediately as the action resumed, Djogo turned it over, and Newton got a jumper to die on the basket support and fall in. The Irish came up empty again on the other end, and Miami had the ball, up 8, with 3 minutes to go. Oof.

After Farrell missed another deep three, Burns managed to come down with the offensive rebound thanks to excellent position, and he drew a foul. John Mutton and The Bird Whisperer are subbed back in, and I wrote down the following note:

“mooney and geben come back...time to score, you guys.”

Mutton almost instantaneously buried a three, making it 70-65 and giving the Irish crowd just a little bit of hope with 2:30 to go.

The Hurricanes managed to get an offensive rebound and a basket on the other end, but Gibbs came right back and got a runner to fall on the other end. 72-67, Miami, with 1:42 to go.

At this point, I think ND called a timeout, and it was STUNNING to see a handful of fans in each section decide this was the time to leave. 1:42 left, the team down just 5, and these fans were concerned with beating that CRAZY Purcell traffic that lasts for maybe 20-30 minutes before it clears out. There wasn’t even an excuse of a bad snowstorm coming or something. There was only some rain, folks.

If any of you are reading this, you are the WORST type of fans.

After the timeout, ND got a stop, and with about a minute remaining, Matt Farrell did was he does best and BURIED a huge three, cutting the deficit to 2.

Miami called a timeout with 56.7 seconds to go, and the Purcell crowd, once again, got sucked back in to believing this team could pull this off.

After the timeout, ND came out in some sort of trapping defense, which led to Miami splitting a trap and getting an easy layup, plus a foul. The free throw was made, making it 75-70 with 47 seconds to play. This defensive call baffled me. The Irish just needed to play straight up and get a stop. They were only down two. Pressuring the ball like that made no sense, and Miami made them pay. Woof.

On the other end, The Bird Whisperer was wily enough to draw a foul after a nice find from Farrell, and he hit both free throws to make it a one-possession game again with 38.5 seconds left.

ND, now playing straight up in hopes of getting a stop, forced a missed jumper by Miami, but Izundu got himself another huge offensive rebound and proceeded to get an and-one bucket to ice the game with 11 seconds to play. 77-72, Miami.

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

After a couple Gibbs free throws and a missed front-end of a one-and-one by Chris Lykes, Gibbs had a 3/4-court shot attempt for the tie at the buzzer, but it sailed over the backboard harmlessly.

Miami won, 77 to 74. I was wrong about the omen.

Final Stats

Notre Dame: Martinas “The Bird Whisperer” Geben had 19 points and 7 rebounds, while Matt Farrell contributed 16 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists while shooting 4-of-8 from three point range. TJ Gibbs chipped in 11 points and John “John Mutton” Mooney added 10. The Irish shot 53% from the field overall, 35% from deep, and 79% from the charity stripe. They had nearly as many turnovers as assists (14 assists, 12 turnovers), and out-rebounded Miami 33-25.

Miami: Lonnie Walker IV led the way for Miami with 19 points on 5-of-7 three point shooting. Ebuka Izundu had himself a great game, scoring 14 and grabbing 8 rebounds (he averages 4.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg on the season). Ja’Quan Newton added 12 points, chris Lykes had 9, and Anthony Lawrence II had a nice all-around game with 7 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists. The Hurricanes shot 53% from the field, 47% from three point range, and an abysmal 43% (6/14) from the free throw line. They had 15 assists and just 8 turnovers, taking great care of the ball all throughout the game.

Stray Observations

  • These games are really wearing on me as a fan and reporter, so I can’t imagine what they’re doing to a depleted team who is constantly leaving it all on the floor and coming up juuuuuust short, time and again. BONZIE and Matt, along with the rest of the seniors, absolutely deserve better than this in their final ride. It sucks, and there’s no other way to say it. “Luck of the Irish” does not exist, folks. Only pain and misery and what-ifs.
  • Seriously, I wanna cry
  • Brian Kelly was at this game. I blame him. Stay away from my favorite Notre Dame sports program, BK!!!
NCAA Basketball: Miami at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • Lonnie Walker had an awesome game, and showed why he’s considered a potential lottery pick in this year’s NBA Draft. But even more impressive, in my opinion, is his hair. IT’S BEAUTIFUL. FEATHERED AND LETHAL.
NCAA Basketball: Miami at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
  • Pflueger should be back on Saturday, which will be good in terms of the Irish having more than 3 perimeter players. His defense was sorely missed last night as well.
  • Unfortunately, DJ Harvey is done for the year, according to Brey in his postgame presser. This could have been a much different season if he doesn’t get hurt against Louisville. He was really blossoming at the time, and in many of these close losses the Irish just needed another scorer and athlete to get it done.
  • BONZIE is going to be back for Pitt on Feb. 28th. It might just be in a “start on senior night and then go back to the bench” capacity, but knowing COLSON, I bet you anything he plays more than that and plays the rest of the season out after that game. He’d play this Saturday after just a couple real practices if he could (Brey will NOT let him, and for good reason)
  • Let’s end this recap on a positive note: Austin Torres and Elijah Burns have been much-maligned throughout this year, and it’s been mostly justified, considering their inability to contribute at a high level, especially on offense. But those two were AWESOME last night on both ends of the floor. Combined, they played 30 minutes, shot 5-for-7 from the field, scored 11 points, grabbed 8 rebounds, dished out 3 assists, and went 1-for-1 from the free throw line. They had me tweeting this out, and actually sort of meaning it:

If I told you that’s the production we’d get from those two heading into this game, you would have thrown a Goddamn parade in their honor and assumed we won by 20. It was especially fun watching them work as a tandem on offense, finding each other with really nice passes and finishing at the rim. I can’t, and probably never will, get over it. Loved the effort, and hope those two continue to give minutes like that down the home stretch here.