Folks, it is with a heavy heart that I inform you all that Pat Rick is back at it again with his long, unnecessarily-detailed basketball recaps.
That’s right, I finally managed to meander my way over to Purcell Pavilion to catch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s hoops team in action as they squared off with the UCLA Bruins in a battle of historic rivals that featured legends Bill Walton and Digger Phelps providing color commentary on the ABC broadcast with Dave Pasch.
Of course, at this point you already know what happened. The young, still-finding-themselves Irish kept the momentum going after a sizzling shooting performance against the Detroit Mercy Titans on Tuesday, beating the Bruins soundly on Saturday afternoon, 75 to 61.
The Bruins themselves are trying to rebuild and find themselves as well, what with this being Mick Cronin’s first season as head coach after Steve Alford was fired in late 2018.
So, considering there will be plenty of detailed explanation in the coming recap, let’s jump right in and see how the Irish’s first win over a Power 5 opponent in 2019 unfolded.
I got to campus super early because I am typically paranoid about leaving myself tons of time to deal with Chicago traffic, and so the first 30-45 minutes of my time on campus were simply spent wandering around campus, enjoying the relatively peaceful, very brisk early afternoon underneath the pallor of that gray South Bend sky. TD Jesus and I got some quality time in, sitting around the barren reflecting pool.
Once I finally got too cold and found my seat in the press box, there was a little less than an hour until tipoff. The Purcell DJ, though, was already in mid-game form, fooling me into thinking he was playing a song that would get me super pumped in the pretty-empty press box.
scratch that, it was only the beat, not the entire song. Color me disappointed— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
As I watched the end of the Oregon/Michigan game on my laptop, I also took in the pregame warmups of both teams. The only big takeaway I had from that duration of time?
Tyger Campbell’s hair is INCREDIBLE.
Like, so incredible that I felt compelled to tweet about it a decent amount.
Tyger Campbell's hair is just as glorious in-person as I hoped it would be— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
I have to be honest, the combination of the name Tyger and the hair that kid has...I hope he puts up 50 in a loss today, you guys— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
I also spent some of the pregame time trying to put together a list of things his hair kinda resembles from afar. Here’s what I came up with, and please be mindful that I do not mean to insult the kid — I truly love his hair and think it’s amazing:
- a small, fluffy, black dog perched on his head
- some sort of Halloween spider decoration he has torn from the wall and attached to his head
- someone took a black loofah and attacked it with a weed whacker, then placed it on his head
- someone broke the handle off a feather duster and told Tyger it is a fun hat
The rest of pregame warmups were fairly uneventful, as the Purcell DJ managed to play that “Greens, Beans, Potatoes, Tomatoes” song but also “Rock Star” by Nickelback.
Finally, we got to the national anthem played by the Fighting Irish band and some pump-up videos played on the Purcell video board. A couple thoughts on those:
- The first pump-up video showed some clips from the 2015 ACC title run and it is SO surreal now to think about how this program — which many expect will miss the NCAA Tournament for the 3rd year in a row — was inches away from a Final Four just 4.5 years ago. That just doesn’t seem possible.
- The second pump-up video they played is the one promoting this season’s team slogan, “Run It Back,” and it is absolutely RIDICULOUS. With Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE” blaring, it’s a bunch of clips of the players dancing around and shooting some hoops in a dimly-lit gym, and a lot of it is just them screaming into the camera and snarling and flexing. It’s not that I didn’t like it, but it just seemed a little on the sillier side, especially considering how this team has looked so far this year.
Once the pump-ups were played and the below starters were announced, we had our typical Cathy Richardson/Dropkick Murphys combo and then the game tipped off.
UCLA Starters: Cody Riley, Jaime Jaquez Jr., Tyger Campbell, Prince Ali, Jalen Hill
ND Starters: Prentiss Hubb, T.J. Gibbs, Rex Pflueger, John Mooney, Juwan Durham
Three seconds into the game, and I have to pat myself on the back here — I knew the Irish had this one. The Bruins committed a backcourt violation before most spectators could even realize what the result of the tip-off was.
UCLA with a backcourt violation 3 seconds in, this is Notre Dame's game to lose!!!— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
So, ND took the ball and immediately set the tone, with John “John Mutton” Mooney knocking down a little jumper to kick off the scoring. Soon after, Mutton drew an offensive foul, and after two minutes of play the Irish were on a stunning pace to win the game 4-0.
After a three from Gibbs extended the Irish lead to 5-0, our favorite hair-haver Tyger Campbell knocked down a three to get the Bruins on the board. With an ugly miss on a long ball by Hubb and a nice move and bucket for Cody Riley, the two teams sat tied at 5 with just over 16 minutes to play. That was short-lived, though, with Gibbs splashing in another three to give Notre Dame an 8-5 lead at the first media timeout.
Between that timeout and the under-12 one, very little happened due to both teams going ice cold from the field. There was one possession where both teams managed to look horrible, as the Irish kept failing to grab a defensive rebound, giving UCLA probably 6 or 7 chances to score (they did not).
The most interesting thing to happen was a Tim Abromaitis feature on the video board during a break in the action, and then everyone applauding for him as they showed his parents (but not him) in their seats at the game. Otherwise, it was a whole lot of nothing happening during that portion of the 1st half.
8-5 Irish at the under-12 timeout.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
UCLA is on a scoring drought of 4:25 (0-of-7) and ND is on a drought of 3:37 (0-of-6)
Lord, beer me strength
Finally, after coming back from the media timeout, the scoring picked up a bit. The Bruins got a bucket, and then Dane Goodwin got a three the new-fashioned way (shooting a three pointer that bounced around the rim and backboard a few times before falling in).
At one point a tad later, UCLA’s Jalen Hill went to the line for two foul shots, and the student section began mercilessly chanting “HOW WAS CHINA?!?” This was fantastic, in my opinion, especially because the China incident happened roughly two years ago. Just devastating to dig that back up, after most had completely moved on from it.
Furthermore, it clarified another chant the students had earlier in the game, saying “We want ‘gelo!” referring to LiAngelo Ball, the middle Ball child who was one of the three shoplifters in 2017 along with Hill and Cody Riley.
As the action resumed, Goodwin continued to show why he’s been one of the most promising guys on the team this season. First, he pushed the ball in transition and got it into Hubb’s hands so that Hubb could execute a gorgeous little behind-the-back pass back to Goodwin as he squared up and drained a three.
The next possession, Goodwin rattled home another deep ball, pushing the Irish lead to 9, beating the Bruins 17-8. ND was up 20-10 at the under-8 timeout after a Hubb off-the-dribble three, making that a 12-3 run by the Irish in a span of about 4 minutes of basketball.
That under-8 timeout was absolute bedlam, by the way. First, the Notre Dame pom squad came out for a performance that didn’t include their pom poms but DID include Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” I responded appropriately.
ND Pom Squad out here with no poms (so, just the ND Squad) and Mariah Carey's "All I Want For Christmas Is You" playing.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
This game is over, UCLA might as well leave now.
That wasn’t the end of the timeout wildness, though. There was MORE.
This was followed up by T-shirt Toss Time and the band playing Mr. Brightside. I'm like 99% sure this isn't real and I actually perished on my way to the game and am now in The Good Place.— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
This timeout legitimately seemed like it was designed just for me and my personal interests, so I gotta admit I was pretty riled up as action resumed. And I want to note for everyone that during T-Shirt Toss Time, per usual, tons of adults were going nuts. One dad in particular kept doing this POWERFUL double-armed point at the cheerleaders trying to decide who to throw their t-shirts to, and I have to say I’m disappointed he didn’t get one. Double-Arm-Point Dad deserves justice! Get him a t-shirt!
Unfortunately, the team did not get as pumped up about that timeout as I did. UCLA went on a 6-0 run while the Irish stumbled through another ~3-minute scoring drought.
However, T.J. Gibbs finally decided enough is enough, refusing to let UCLA get any closer. He drained a three to end the scoring drought, and then after a Goodwin jumper, ND led 25-14 with about 3 minutes left in the half.
After an uninspiring Dance Cam that used “Hey Ya,” Jaime Jaquez Jr. knocked down a three for the Bruins to cut their deficit to 8. After an airball three from Hubb, it looked like UCLA might climb back into this game, but Nate Laszewski quickly answered with a corner three to shift the momentum, and then after ND got another stop, Dane Goodwin pushed the ball in transition and got himself three points the old-fashioned way, finishing strong while tumbling to the floor thanks to the UCLA player blocking his way. 31-17, Irish.
The last 7 points of the half, though, went to the Bruins, and so at halftime, ND led just 31-24. The momentum appeared to be shifting a bit, again.
1st Half Stats
Notre Dame: Dane Goodwin led the way for the Irish in the first half, scoring 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting (3-of-6 from long range). T.J. Gibbs chipped in 9 points. The team shot 34% from the field and 35% from three, and only had 3 turnovers.
UCLA: No one on the Bruins scored more than 5 points in the first half, but Tyger Campbell and Jaime Jaquez Jr. both had 5 points and UCLA out-rebounded the Irish 25-17. The Bruins shot 30% from the field, 38% from deep, and turned it over 7 times.
The halftime show yesterday afternoon had a main event and a minor follow-up, so let’s quickly dissect both.
First, the main event: the Notre Dame Jump Rope Team.
Notre Dame has a jump rope team??? I...did not know this. But damnit if it wasn’t an absolute delight to watch.
We got to see:
- people jumping over each other
- two guys swinging ropes under their butts as they bounced on their asses, essentially jumping rope, butt style
- some sick double dutch tricks
- some jump rope-ception, with people jumping rope inside bigger ropes being jumped
- some kid doing BACKFLIPS while jumping rope in mid-air???
- one girl doing a bunch of ridiculous tricks in her solo performance
- two simultaneous double-dutches where in one the guy jumping is also juggling and in the other the girl jumping is also doing a bunch of one-handed handstands and flips
- this trick where 5 of them are swinging multiple ropes with alternating arm movements and managing to also jump at the right time
- this other really cool trick where a girl would go down a line of people and jump rope with them, and the line of people kept clumping into bigger and bigger groups of people, which was really awesome for the biggest group she jumped rope with
At least some of these tricks that I failed to describe well in my writing can be seen in this video, I believe:
So, in conclusion, the Notre Dame Jump Rope Team is fantastic. Are they perfect and never mess up their tricks? Of course not, they’re a college jump rope team. However, they pulled off some REALLY neat stuff and were a very pleasant surprise — I was a very big fan.
The Notre Dame Jump Rope Team is AMAZING— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
Thus, on a scale of 1 to Red Panda, I am giving them a solid 7.5. Very, very pleased with how that went.
The second part of halftime was a video about the ND/UCLA rivalry — specifically the Irish snapping UCLA’s 88-game win streak in 1974. We’ve seen a lot of this stuff before just from past documentaries/specials done about that game, but the one thing that I did love from them showing that video on the Purcell video board was this quote from Bill Walton.
“The pain, the suffering, the agony and disappointment...will forever be a part of my life.”— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
- Bill Walton, talking about losing a regular season matchup on the road after winning 88 consecutive games
I will never not love seeing how butt-hurt Bill Walton is about that game. It truly still haunts him.
To start the second half, Mike Brey went back to his starting five despite Dane Goodwin being a god amongst young men in the first half.
My skepticism was unfounded, however, as the Irish began the 2nd half on a 14-4 run that saw Prentiss Hubb and John Mutton start to take over. Hubb knocked down a few threes, Mutton got some offensive boards and a bucket down low, and then Mutton stepped out and drained a three, forcing UCLA to take a timeout with 15:28 to play and the Irish up 45-28 all of a sudden.
During that timeout, another LOUD chant broke out in the student section, and for a while I could not figure out what was being said. After asking our ever-reliable OFD Twitter followers, I was informed they were chanting “L-F-G!” and it was due to this man doing his normal thing.
Of course, by “normal thing,” I mean he is doing what he has become known for doing at every football game and many basketball games — tossing hotdogs into the crowd for absolutely no reason except to share the love with the student body.
I couldn’t love this more, and am very disappointed in myself that I didn’t know this story already. Connor Nielsen is a HERO, and should be treated and revered as such. His fellow students clearly already treat him like that, considering the chant was THUNDEROUS as he tossed hot dogs throughout the Leprechaun Legion.
Back to the action — ND and UCLA traded some baskets for a while, as Hubb and Shareef O’Neal (Shaq’s son, if you’ve heard of Shaq at all...) traded threes and Nate Laszewski and a UCLA player traded buckets as well.
Then, Hubb managed to pull off what has become his signature shot this season — the Rim Wedgie Shot. That marks two on the year for him, as we all remember the Wedgie Heard ‘Round the World* in the Toledo game a few weeks ago.
* ”World” here should be taken to mean the greater Michiana area, plus maybe Toledo, Ohio.
During another break in play, the video board played a fun little video with some of the players telling us about the best, worst, and weirdest Christmas gifts they’ve received over the years. Highlights included T.J. Gibbs receiving a sweater from his brother that he (T.J.) had gifted to him (his brother) the year before and Rex Pflueger receiving fake porcelain dogs that he thought were real at first. Rex ended that story with the line, “...but yeah...Christmas.” So that was pretty great.
Then, the Purcell DJ gave us the Karaoke Cam, and played “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” causing me to REEEEEALLY consider standing up in the press box and start karaoke-performing in hopes of getting on the big screen. Unfortunately I was a professional (read: coward) and did not do so.
Nate Laszewski was clearly in a similar boat as a fellow Mariah Carey fan, as he got the action started again with a three pointer to stretch the Irish lead to 53-37 with 13 minutes to play.
Soon after, Juwan Durham was at the free throw line, and in the quiet hush that fell over the crowd as one of their own was shooting free throws, some fan shouted out, “Juwanna make it!” Juwan missed the free throw.
On the other end, when UCLA shot free throws, the student section — per usual — was anything but quiet. I told you already about the “How was China?” chant, and in the second half, with Shareef O’Neal at the line, the Lep Legion started with a “Who’s your daddy?” chant.
When O’Neal missed that first free throw after that chant, the students began chanting “Shoots like daddy!”
This was, of course, inaccurate. In this game, Shareef actually shot worse than daddy.
Shareef O'Neal is now 1-for-4 from the line, and I have to say, the ND student body is misguided in chanting "shoots like daddy."— One Foot Down (@OneFootDown) December 14, 2019
Shaq was a 52.7% free throw shooter, you guys. Show some respect.
Despite the devastating free throw chants, the Bruins kept chipping away at the big Irish lead, bringing it down to 11 before Prentiss Hubb got a couple free throws to fall after being fouled shooting a three. ND led 57-44 with 9:50 remaining.
Apparently, at some point, Tyger Campbell shot an airball, because at this point in the second half, when Campbell got the ball, the students began chanting “aiiiiiiiiiirbaaalllllll” at him. But folks,,, they should have been chanting “HAIIIIIIIIIRBAAAAALLLLLLL!” AMIRITE???
With UCLA still within about 13 points with close to 5 minutes left, Dane Goodwin managed to draw a foul and knock down a couple free throws.
That would roughly be how the rest of the game went for ND and UCLA, as the Irish continued to hit some shots from the stripe down the stretch, and then after a nice Mooney-to-Hubb bucket, a Hubb three, and some more free throws, the Irish closed out their 75-61 victory at home.
Notre Dame: Prentiss Hubb led the Irish in scoring with 20 points (5-of-10 from deep) and also dished out 6 assists on the day. Dane Goodwin added 16 points and 6 rebounds, T.J. Gibbs had 15 points, and John Mooney managed to once again put up a sensational double-double, going for 14 points and 15 boards. Nate Laszewski was pretty solid himself, adding 8 and 7.
Overall, the Irish shot 38% from the field and 39% from deep, making 15 threes after hitting 20 against Detroit Mercy. They also hit 71% of their free throws and managed to commit only 6 turnovers.
UCLA: Chris Smith was the only Bruin in double figures with 10 points (he also had 5 rebounds), but UCLA got decent contributions from Jaime Jaquez Jr. (9 points, 8 rebounds), Prince Ali (9 points), and Shareef O’Neal (8 points, 11 rebounds).
Overall, the Bruins shot 35% from the field and 44% from three, turned the ball over 9 times, and out-rebounded the Irish 48 to 40. They were not great from the charity stripe, though, making only 10 of their 20 attempts on the day.
Before I end this mammoth of a recap, I just wanted to briefly mention the postgame press conferences, which were pretty run-of-the-mill stuff, but just to break down what was said...
Prentiss Hubb and John Mutton were the two players who answered questions, and they emphasized everyone being willing to take open shots, locking in on defense and focusing on stepping on the opponents’ throats being key to their second half run, and that in the past week, since their loss to BC, they’ve really done a good job moving on and learning from their past mistakes.
One quote I really liked that Hubb mentioned Mutton had said: “turning down open shots is selfish.”
In Coach Brey’s presser, he first talked about how they’d been searching for a Power 5 win, and he thought his team did a good job winning 15 feet and in for the most part, hit some big shots, and had a really nice week of growth.
He said Hubb needs to continue to be aggressive and hunt his shot, and they need to keep getting Goodwin going. He also mentioned that when Goodwin enters the game, Hubb and Gibbs are out there calling sets for him and trying to get him going.
Brey talked about how the defense — especially guards helping big men in the post — was good, and although it made sense stylistically against UCLA, maybe the Irish should always play that kind of defense, giving up the three a little more, because it makes them more active as a unit.
He then talked about how the team is #1 in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio, and that they’re spacing the floor really well right now.
Quotes from Brey I loved:
- “I’m a great guy to play for.”
- “Rex can go home for Christmas now.”
- “What a difference a week makes.”
Final, Random Thoughts
- Dane Goodwin is officially the spark-off-the-bench guy — his ability to come into a game where the Irish aren’t scoring at all and just start exploding for a bunch of points in a short amount of time is phenomenal. As long as he is able to keep doing that, the Irish can hang around with a lot of teams
- ND got good Hubb and decent Gibbs in this one — gonna need that to continue against IU next Saturday and certainly in ACC play...the BC game showed us what happens when we get nothing from the starting backcourt
- John Mutton is so unbelievably reliable, he’s the best
- Lasz looks to be showing more confidence — hopefully that continues, as having him and Goodwin coming off the bench and lighting opponents up could actually get the Irish a big win or two if it happens on the right night
Alright, folks. I’ll stop there. Let’s go beat the Hoosiers next weekend.