The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team kicked off their Maui Jim Maui Invitational experience late Monday evening (and into Tuesday morning for those in the Eastern and Central time zones), losing a close one to the Saint Mary’s Gaels by a final score of 62 to 59.
The tournament, which the Irish won in 2017 to earn the invite back this season, was moved from Maui to Las Vegas due to COVID restrictions in Hawaii. With the loss, the Irish will not be competing for a repeat title this year.
Notre Dame was led by Cormac Ryan, who scored 16 points and added 5 rebounds on the evening while shooting 3-for-5 from three-point range and 5-for-10 from the field overall. Paul Atkinson Jr. (13 points, 5 rebounds), Dane Goodwin (10 points, 3 rebounds), and Trey Wertz (7 points, 5 assists) also had nice games as the Irish shot 39% from the floor, 33% from deep, and won the turnover battle 8 to 13.
Saint Mary’s was led on the day by Dan Fotu, their leading scorer on the season — he poured in 22 points and snagged 3 rebounds and was a nuisance both in the paint and from long range all game for the Irish, shooting 8-of-9 from the field and 3-for-3 from three-point land.
Tommy Kuhse (14 points, 4 rebounds) and Matthias Tass (7 points, 5 rebounds) also chipped in solid performances, and the Gaels shot 49% overall and 53% from three-point range while also out-rebounding the Irish 32-27.
The game began pretty slow for the Irish, as Saint Mary’s jumped out to a 7-0 lead over the first ~4 minutes of play. Mike Brey substituted Blake Wesley and Trey Wertz during the media timeout, though, and Wesley gave the team a nice spark as they forced their way back into the ballgame.
Notre Dame ran into a first half drought that was quite reminiscent of last season, going about 5 minutes without scoring as Saint Mary’s built a 31-24 lead. However, the last few minutes of the half belonged to the Irish, as Atkinson Jr., Goodwin, Ryan, and Hubb all chipped in during a 7-0 run that had things even between the two teams at halftime.
In the second half, the two teams traded small runs, with neither side jumping to a commanding lead or even holding a lead for very long as the lead changes and tie scores were both in the double digits on the evening.
A late three from Fotu put Saint Mary’s up with less than two minutes to play, and the Irish failed to convert on multiple chances down the stretch to answer.
They even had one final chance to send it to overtime with 4.6 seconds to play, but Cormac Ryan’s desperation, contested three didn’t come close to finding paydirt.
With the loss, Notre Dame falls to 2-1 on the year and will now play tomorrow 10:30pm ET against the the Chaminade Silverswords. Chaminade was blown out by Oregon on Monday evening by a final score of 73 to 49 in the game prior to ND-St. Mary’s.