Well folks, another ranked opponent has come and gone, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team has once again managed to play them very close but ultimately wilt down the stretch, unable to close things out.
The Irish fell at home to the #17 North Carolina State Wolfpack on Saturday afternoon, losing 77-73 in a game where NC State was perpetually allowing ND to chip away at 5 or 6-point leads but never really let them pull ahead. Notre Dame once again struggled to shoot the ball, making just 41% of their shots overall while shooting an abysmal 25% from three point range.
I (Pat Rick) was in attendance, having been fearless enough to ride the South Shore to South Bend and back just for this NC State match-up. Below are my detailed, important, advanced observations and analysis of this game and for this team going forward.
I arrived about an hour to tip-off and the first thing I noticed was that the few students who were already there, locking down their front-row-of-the-student-section spots, were sporting tropical outfits (Hawaiian shirts, grass skirts, leis, etc.) while playing with inflatable palm trees and flamingos, boogie boards, and the like. This was Hawaiian Day for Purcell, in honor of Maui Brey and all the joy he has brought to our lives. I’d mentioned this theme in past write-ups as something ND needed to do as a fun theme night to combat the doldrums of winter and inspire the team and fan base using that magical Maui Invitational title as motivation, so I was VERY pleased about it.
As I sat there and watched the teams warm up, I noticed on the Purcell video board they were showing some “Academic Fast Facts,” which of course was just exhilarating to see. If you need to know about ND professor Jerome Green, in 1899, being the first American to transmit a wireless message, or if you’re curious who built the first wind tunnel in the United States in 1910 (Notre Dame), I’ve got you guys.
Members of the band then began to arrive, and I was nearly enraged to see most of them just wearing green t-shirts, as if this were a normal game. Yeah, they had the leis that it turned out any and every fan could get as they came in, but you’re telling me that the ND athletic department and basketball staff planned and put together a whole tropical-themed game, and they couldn’t organize the band dressing more tropically??? THAT MAKES NO SENSE.
As I sat in the press box seething, the Purcell DJ put on “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato, which is a certified *BANGER*, so my mood immediately shifted. Still...be better, band.
The ND ball boys, at this point, have begun shooting around on the court because the teams have retired to their locker rooms. I was late to begin watching them, but one of them is MUCH better than the other. Like, the worse kid was missing everything, while the good shooter was draining college-length threes. These dudes were like 9 years old. @MikeBrey, please extend a scholarship offer to Ballboy McBallboyson ASAP — kid’s a sniper from long range (as most snipers are).
The band, in a desperate attempt to appease me after my outburst, played “Pompeii” by Bastille, and that song somehow still hasn’t gotten old, despite the fact it’s VERY old. The Purcell DJ, then, took that alley-oop from the band and slammed it home, tossing on the instrumental version of “Tipsy” by J-Kwon. Purcell DJ, I <3 you.
The Purcell DJ just seamlessly transitioned us from the band's rendition of Bastille's "Pompeii" into what I only recognized as the instrumental version of J-Kwon's "Tipsy."— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
Irish by 1000.
As more and more fans began to find their seats, it became clear they were definitely giving out leis at the door to any fans who wanted them. This, of course, made me upset once again, because there were PLENTY of ND fans rolling into their seats with no leis in sight. ARE YOU REALLY SO BORING AND UPTIGHT THAT YOU CAN’T PUT ON A LEI TO HELP US CHANNEL THE MYSTICAL POWERS OF MAUI BREY??? How selfish.
As the students similarly began to fill their section, I was struck by a tropical-themed way this whole Hawaiian Day could have been taken to the next level — sandcastles.
How funny would it be to have tarps in front of the student section with sand all over the place, and the students in the front, in their brightly-colored hula skirts and Tommy Bahama shirts, building sandcastles and enjoying relaxing with their toes in the sand as they watch a Notre Dame vs. NC State basketball game in January during a snowstorm?
Even better, what if sandcastles were incorporated into the halftime entertainment??
@NDmbb the halftime show better be a sandcastle building competition— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
@NotreDameAthleticDepartmentMarketing, please hire me. I have IDEAS.
Random observation: I love that referees have matching warmups they wear before games, just like players. It’s adorable.
I’ve just heard tell of a photo booth in the concourse for taking tropical pictures, and I am HERE FOR THAT. I don’t think it will surprise any of you that I LOVE photo booths and taking the stupidest pictures imaginable in them.
I also just realized the few NC state fans that were at this game definitely do not know why Maui Brey is so special or why ND would have a Hawaiian Day in January, so that makes this theme even better. The fact it was snowing as this all went down was icing on the pineapple upside down cake.
The Purcell DJ, at this point, cemented himself as a first ballot Hall of Famer in the College Basketball Arena DJ Hall of Fame, putting together this fantastic sequence:
And then went from "Surfin' USA" into "We Ready." Beach Boys to Archie Eversole.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
<3 <3 <3
My good friend Gold Jacket Guy was just shown on the video board, and was joined by a friend who appears to be attempting to make a personal brand for himself as well. His friend stood there, stoic face, refusing to show he was having fun as Gold Jacket Guy had his arm around him and was going nuts, per usual. I’m going to dub this new character “Pretending to Not Have Fun Dude” and he is officially a legend.
BIG, if true: I think the press box got carpeting since last year, you guys.
Okay, let’s look at the actual game now, which had some interesting things happen during it, if you can believe it.
- TJ Gibbs
- John “John Mutton” Mooney
- Prentiss Hubb
- DJ Harvey
- Dane “Daney G” Goodwin
- Braxton Beverly
- C.J. Bryce
- Wyatt “Man Bun or Ponytail?“ Walker
- Eric Lockett
- Devon Daniels
*Note: Notre Dame was without Juwan Durham, who is still working on his ankle injury and may not be back for a while. NC State was without starting guard and second-leading scorer Markell Johnson
**Another Note: According to a few hundred unnamed sources in the student section, all of NC State’s starters “suck.” This was not confirmed during the game, as at least a few of them clearly did not, in fact, suck.
The action got started quickly, with John Mutton initiating the scoring with a smooth-as-butter turnaround baby-hook bank shot. The Wolfpack would immediately respond, though, with CJ Bryce answering the ND bucket with a jumper of his own. Please note, this (CJ Bryce scoring after ND scores a key bucket or two) will happen roughly 1,000 times throughout the game.
DJ Harvey then dropped in a three pointer to give ND a 5-2 lead, continuing his trend of being really solid in the first half and then disappearing in the 2nd. I think a lot of that can be attributed to his knee/conditioning not being 100% yet and so he’s getting exhausted in the back half of these contests, but the Irish could REALLY use his scoring ability down the stretch in these close games — especially because he’s the best one-on-one kind of scorer ND has, and he can knock down mid-range jumpers like it’s his job.
At the 15:40 mark, Notre Dame led 9-8, and I took notice of Wyatt Walker’s hair — it was either a man bun or a ponytail (hard to tell from the press box) — and it looked goofy as hell on him. I wasn’t the only one to think so.
When you got a game of basketball at 8 but a game of thrones at 10 pic.twitter.com/keFXIUoFtn— Tommy (@tommyschneeman) January 19, 2019
Walker apparently read my thoughts and heard me making fun of his hair, because he immediately attempted a really cool behind-the-back bounce pass in transition to a teammate for a bucket. However, it was for naught, as Walker had run into an ND player while doing it and was called for a charge. Gotcha, Ponytail.
During a timeout, they brought Lili Thompson out to mid-court. Thompson transferred to ND late in her career from Stanford and was a really good player in her time in college. Now, she’s apparently a Harlem Globetrotter, and she stood there in her Globetrotter gear doing neat little tricks with a ball as she announced that someone in a certain seat had won 4 tickets to a Harlem Globetrotters game. Pretty neat.
As action resumed, I had just made a note saying “nothing falling for ND right now” and then Prentiss Hubb, in true Prentiss Hubb form, knocked down a DEEP three late in the shot clock to get the Irish back on track. However, this was immediately followed by, you guessed it, a CJ Bryce three pointer to grab the lead back for NC State.
At one point as Dane Goodwin reentered the game, I made a note of it and called him “Daney G.” I don’t know how I feel about this nickname, but for now I’m going to use it in this recap, take it for a spin, and see how it feels. It’s an homage to Johnny G, AKA John Goodman, AKA the best punt fair-catcher of all time.
Back to the action, Torin Dorn, who leads NC State in scoring, got a bucket, and I couldn’t help but think about how much his name sounds like someone from Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings or something. So, I decided to see what the people thought about that. The responses were solid:
Does Torin Dorn's name sound more like:— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
reminds me of Roger Dorn -- third basemen, fictional Cleveland Indians— Tim O'Malley (@timomalleyND) January 19, 2019
Reminds me of actor Rip Torn— Mike (@KyNDfan) January 19, 2019
NC State led 15-14 at the under-12 timeout. During that timeout, because I had just ran the Torin Dorn Twitter poll, I decided to check out the results of the other poll I tweeted before the game began:
How many dunks are we predicting for John Mutton today???— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
There you have it, folks. The people have spoken — JOHN MUTTON!!!!!!!!!!!!
The next few minutes involved Notre Dame playing some sloppy basketball and NC State extending their lead slightly, as the Wolfpack started putting some full court pressure on the Irish and really hitting the boards.
This is when Mike Brey inserted Chris Doherty into the game for the first time. Doherty was originally slated to redshirt this season and be a 5-year guy, but due to Durham’s ankle injury and Elijah Burns’ transfer to Siena, desperate times call for Doherty measures.
Doherty entered the game and immediately began tossing his body around down low, snagging a defensive rebound to a triumphant cheer from fans, but then subsequently having the ball ripped from his hands by an NC State player. However, soon after, a deflected pass became a loose ball that Doherty was in the perfect place to grab, so the guy had been in the game for just a minute or two and already grabbed a rebound and completed a steal. Not too shabby.
On the other end, DJ Harvey again showed that first half flair with a gorgeous up-and-under layup he spun in fancy fashion off the glass, drawing a foul as the English he put on the ball helped it bounce around and hang there a bit before falling in the hoop to the roar of the crowd. He missed the free throw, though, so that made it 19-all at the 8 minute mark.
The Wolfpack went on a mini-run after that, getting a CJ Bryce three and another bucket to seize a 5-point lead with 7 minutes in the half.
During the next timeout, the Purcell DJ continued his hot streak by playing “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, and of course that made me think of some funny tweets I’ve seen regarding that song. It’s a freakin’ jam.
Over the next few minutes of action, we saw things like a John Mutton put-back, a CJ Bryce layup, a DJ Harvey swat, Nik “Khal” Djogo hitting a couple free throws, Chris Doherty getting some more time, and ND generally struggling to hit any of their shots. NC State led by 5 with 4:30 to play in the half.
From there, we were all treated to a Khal Djogo dunk on a nice baseline drive, sandwiched between two foul calls against the Irish that caused Mike Brey to get VERY animated and upset, but somehow he did not get a T.
During the under-4 media timeout, we were treated to a Dance Cam set to the new, hot song of 2019 — “Hey Ya” by Outkast. Sweet.
Also, I’ve used it a couple times in this article and it occurred to me because I just finished rewatching Game of Thrones in preparation for this April, but the nickname Khal Djogo for Nik Djogo is fantastic and I intend on making that stick. Nicknames have been big for me in this recap — John Mutton, Khal Djogo, Daney G — I hope we get some of these up to the level of White Steve and The Bird Whisperer.
With just 2-3 minutes remaining in the half, the Wolfpack had extended their lead to 8, up 33-25 as the Irish continued to struggle. However, a bucket from Mutton and a free throw from DJ Harvey chipped away at that, and then a couple free throws from Gibbs made it 33-30 with less than 2 minutes to go. DJ Funderburk got himself an alley-oop to quiet the crowd, who had gotten fairly loud, but then a couple Mutton free throws and a Gibbs three tied it all up at 35, bringing the crowd back into it.
However, as is custom, the Irish surrendered an immediate answer-bucket, this time from Torin Dorn, Lord of the Iron Islands.
Mutton got a great look at a buzzer-beater 3, but it rimmed out. NC State led at the half, 37-35.
The Irish shot 37% from the field and 27% from deep, led by John Mutton’s 10 points and 7 rebounds. DJ Harvey and T.J. Gibbs added 8 points apiece. Chris Doherty had a rebound and a steal in his 3 minutes of play. The Irish were out-rebounded 22-17.
The Wolfpack shot 44% from the field and 29% from long range, led by CJ Bryce’s 12 points and supplemented by Devon Daniels’ 6 points and 4 rebounds, Torin Dorn’s 6 points and 6 rebounds, and DJ Funderburk’s 5 and 3.
Halftime for this one was pretty meh, as they first showed a video feature on the 1974 upset of UCLA (the one that ended their 88-game win streak), including people talking about it like Dick Enberg and Bill Walton. Walton had a pretty great quote at one point, saying, “the pain, the suffering, the agony, the disappointment...will forever be a part of my life.” If you’ve seen Walton talk about that game before, you know he is truly bitter and still upset about it, which is amazing and hilarious. That dude is a treasure.
They then showed Digger on the video board, garnering a loud applause from the crowd. This was followed by the Notre Dame drumline coming out and performing, at first, what appeared to be just a medley of the songs/chants you’d hear at any ND football or basketball game. Some of the band members in the stands, in fact, were doing some coordinated hand motions/dance moves to the drums, which was pretty entertaining.
Overall, I give this halftime entertainment a 2 on the scale of 1 to Red Panda — it just wasn’t super interesting or exciting, unfortunately (the drumline was good though!).
Also, one final note — the big cardboard cutout heads began to appear in the student section, inspiring me to call for something legendary to happen:
I spy a Mike Brey big head in the student section...time for someone to rip their shirt off and flex while that's held in front of their face...Irish need all the BMBE (Big Maui Brey Energy) they can muster in this second half.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) January 19, 2019
It never did, but damnit I wish it had.
With the band playing Yellowcard’s “Ocean Avenue” and with the Leprechaun bopping cheerleaders on their heads with an inflatable parrot to get them pumped up for the second half, we dove into the action once again, with the Wolfpack leading by 2.
The Wolfpack began the second half with a bucket after Gibbs fell down trying to draw a foul, leading to an open man down low for an easy basket. The Irish came right back and responded, though, with Harvey scoring on a nice pass from Goodwin. At the time, I made a note that Notre Dame needed Harvey to keep that up and not fade in the second half. That shot was the last one he’d make in this game.
After Daney G had an awesome effort on the offensive boards to poke the ball away from an NC State rebounder and then grab it and lay it in (tying up the game at 39), CJ Bryce came back down and did what he does best, draining a three that halted all ND momentum in its tracks.
After Prentiss Hubb had a nice take erased by an NC State player pinning his shot to the glass, the Wolfpack hit another three in transition (Braxton Beverly this time), giving them a 45-39 lead and forcing the Irish to call timeout.
During the timeout, Purcell did a “Simba Cam” and I have to admit, this was hilarious and awesome. Everyone in the crowd began holding things up, whether it was babies/small children, inflatable tropical items, boogie boards, or band members holding their tubas aloft, everyone got real into the Simba Cam. It was much better than the Flex Cam, which I’ve said before is pretty stupid.
The Simba Cam clearly got John Mutton riled up, as he managed to draw a foul, hit a free throw, and draw a charge over the next few possessions. He then threw down another dunk thanks to a nice pass from Hubb, cutting the NC State lead to 3.
Unfortunately, Devon Daniels did his best CJ Bryce impression on the next possession, draining a 3 to send the Wolfpack back up by 6. Khal Djogo got his next shot swatted, and once again we headed into a media timeout with the momentum clearly on NC State’s side.
During the timeout, the Purcell video board played a short segment with all the ND players talking about whether they are for or against pineapple as a topping on pizza. Here’s how the team broke down:
Pro-Pineapple-On-Pizza: Doherty, Goodwin, Durham, Laszewski, Pflueger
Anti-Pineapple-On-Pizza: Hubb, Djogo, Nelligan, Gibbs
Has Never Had It And Didn’t Seem to Want to Take a Side: Harvey
Note: I do not recall if Carmody was in the video — I’m sure he was — but I do not know what his answer was. So, I will not assign him to any of the factions here.
Another Note: T.J. Gibbs’ answer was the best, as he gave us this explanation as to how he feels about anyone who puts pineapple on pizza: “That’s a crime. You should get arrested and go to jail. That’s disgusting.”
Final Note: I think this video segment clearly showed the issue this ND team is facing. We had NEVER heard about past teams disagreeing on pineapple on pizza. But on this team, the debate had so clearly split the locker room that they felt the need to make a segment about it. Not a great look for the Irish — I hope they can come to a consensus on pineapple on pizza before the year is up, and move forward.
The band finished that media timeout by playing “Mr. Brightside,” which got me all sorts of hyped. Maybe the Irish can make a run and do this.
Out of the timeout, Daney G managed to get himself a bucket, but then so did Dorn. After a really nice and strong finish at the rim by Hubb, NC State led 50-46. Then, we were treated to this:
Doherty with the block and rebound, to Djogo, to Goodwin for the driving layup on the break...just like Brey drew it up back in October. Irish trail 52-48 as NCST rolling offensively this half— Tim O'Malley (@timomalleyND) January 19, 2019
With the crowd rocking again after that sequence, Torin Dorn decided he was going to play the wet blanket role, scoring to quiet the arena.
That silence would be short-lived, however, as Goodwin proceeded to knock down a 3 and then get another bucket, with a Dorn layup in between. That would cap a stretch of the game where 11 total points were scored, all by Goodwin and Dorn.
Trailing 54-53, the Irish surrendered another three to Bryce, who hit this one with a hand in his face. The band played the Friends theme song soon after, so you can imagine how bad that sequence of events was for all of us in the arena (Friends isn’t funny, don’t @ me).
With under 11 minutes left in the contest, NC State made a free throw to go up 58-53. Would this finally be where they pulled away?
Daney G: No.
Goodwin nailed another three pointer, making it a two-point game once again. After a Funderburk offensive rebound and put-back, Harvey took an ill-advised, DEEP 2-point jumper and missed. Bryce responded with a sweet mid-range jumper on the other end, and NC State once again extended its lead to 6.
Hubb drained a three at that point, once again injecting life into the Purcell crowd. That was followed by a really nice drive from Goodwin into the lane, where he managed to flip the ball to John Mutton for a wide open dunk. 62-61, NC State ahead, 8:19 to play and the crowd was LOUD.
In this scenario, I had a note that the Irish needed stops BADLY and then needed to convert on offense to take the lead, and ND managed to buckle down on defense, but had multiple empty offensive possessions in a row, including some badly-missed threes from Hubb. Daniels hit a jumper on the other end to make it a three point game again, and my notes say it all:
“Irish imploding down the stretch again.”
T.J. Gibbs looked to give ND a little life by drawing a foul soon after Daniels’ jumper, but he somehow managed to miss both free throws, crushing the Irish’s spirits just a little bit. CJ Bryce took advantage, sucking the happiness out of everyone, as if he were a dementor, with another made three. After a Daney G bucket stopped the bleeding just a bit, the Wolfpack led 67-63 with 4:16 to go.
After the Irish turned it over on offense, bad defense in transition led to another bucket for the Wolfpack, who again went up by 6. From there, John Mutton got called for a bogus offensive foul as he tried to make moves in the post, NC State scored again, Mutton hit some free throws, and NC State continued to yank down offensive boards and use them to get second chance buckets that kept their lead intact.
After a few more missed shots from the Irish and then a desperate run at the end of the game (ND got it to within 2 with 17 seconds to play), NC State’s Devon Daniels made two huge free throws to seal it, giving the Wolfpack a 77-73 win on the road. Stinks.
John Mutton led the way for the Irish with 19 points and 16 rebounds, adding yet another double-double to his season total. Daney G, with his breakout second half, finished with 19 points of his own on 7-of-10 shooting from the field, adding 4 rebounds and 3 assists as well. T.J. Gibbs had 13 points and 5 assists, shooting just 5 times on the day. DJ Harvey had 10 points and 5 boards, and Prentiss Hubb chipped in 8 and 4. Chris Doherty, in 6 minutes of play, ended up with 3 rebounds, a block, and a steal — not too shabby for a guy expected to not be able to make an impact this season. The Irish, though, shot a measly 41% from the field and 25% from 3, and were out-rebounded 43-38 while leaving 6 points off the board with missed free throws.
The Wolfpack were led by — you guessed it — CJ Bryce, who had 23 points on 9-of-14 shooting (5-of-5 from long range). Devon Daniels added 15 points and 6 boards, and Torin Dorn had 13 and 9. DJ Funderburk chipped in 11 points and 6 rebounds as well. NC State shot 44% from the field and 37% from 3, and turned the ball over just 7 times.
- Obviously another game where the Irish struggled to hit shots and keep the opponent off the offensive glass is a true bummer, but there were still some positives — mainly, that Dane Goodwin is the real deal, is starting to be more assertive and aggressive and hunt his shot, and knows now that he’s dearly needed for this team to have any shot at beating anyone good this year. I was VERY impressed with him. Otherwise, Chris Doherty did EXACTLY what you’d want him to do as a 6-minute-per-game energy guy down low — he rebounded well, played solid defense, and just brought tons of energy as he tossed his body around. Love it. Finally, John Mutton was pretty good, you could say, what with his 19 and 16 beginning to somehow become a norm for him...
- On the flip-side, there were also some clear negatives. Nate Laszewski had a rough day, and that was tough to watch after it seemed like he was really showing us something over the past month or so. I think he’ll bounce back, though — he’s too good of a shooter and too athletic for a big man not to make an impact going forward. Meanwhile, DJ Harvey again disappeared in the second half, and T.J. Gibbs seemed nonexistent at times, as he only took 5 shots. I like that Hubb is shooting through that slump he was in before, but I still think he shoots too much and that Gibbs should more so be the guy who has the ball in his hands late in the shot clock
- Obviously it was tough to watch the team once again choke down the stretch, but I continue to be more and more encouraged for next year — it seems someone new emerges and plays their best game in an Irish uniform to-date in each game at this point, with Saturday’s emerging star being Goodwin. Next season is going to be fun, what with all the development and experience these guys are getting this year. The 2019-2020 team is going to compete for the ACC title, you guys. I’m not kidding.
- Huge miss by ND/Mike Brey for Brey to be wearing a suit on Hawaiian Day. IF YOU UNLEASHED MAUI BREY FOR THIS GAME, ND WOULD HAVE WON AND I AM POSITIVE ABOUT THAT FACT
- Red Panda is the only hope for this squad. They need her at halftime of the Duke or Virginia games desperately. She can power this team to a huge, confidence-building victory
- If you want to watch Mike Brey’s postgame presser, here it is:
- Here are Mutton and Daney G after the game, as well: