The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team finally saw their pleasant surprise of a tournament run come to an end Sunday evening, falling at the hands of the 3rd-seeded Texas Tech Red Raiders by a final score of 59 to 53 at Viejas Arena in San Diego.
The Irish were led on the afternoon by Dane Goodwin, who scored 14 points on 5-of-8 shooting (3-of-5 from three) and snagged 8 rebounds. Other key contributions came from Blake Wesley (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists — although he shot just 3-of-15 from the field), Cormac Ryan (9 points, 4 rebounds), and Trey Wertz (6 points).
Overall, Notre Dame as a team shot 33% from the field and 32% (9-of-28) from long range while losing the rebounding battle 42-36 and the turnover battle 11-8.
The Red Raiders were paced in scoring on the evening by Kevin Obanor (15 points, 15 rebounds), while Bryson Williams (14 points, 3 rebounds) and Kevin McCullar (14 points) chipped in as well.
Texas Tech shot 36% from the floor overall and 27% from long range.
The game began with both teams playing pretty even, neither coming out of the gate on-fire but also both teams able to drum up a few buckets, with the Irish leading 7-6 at the first media timeout. From there, it was a bit ugly with neither team managing much offense, but Texas Tech finally was able to find some success offensively to go on a 7-0 run, while the Irish went 6+ minutes without scoring.
However, a pair of threes from Dane Goodwin and Nate Laszewski — along with a number of defensive stops in a row and some good defensive rebounding — allowed the Irish to tie it up at 13 by the under-8 timeout. The rest of the half was pretty ugly offensively for both teams, with the Red Raiders typically pulling ahead by 4-6 points before the Irish would finally manage some points to scrape their way back into it. Notre Dame finished the half on a nice little 5-0 run culminating in Wesley getting an offensive board and converting on a layup just before the buzzer, shrinking Texas Tech’s lead to just 26-25 at the break despite the Irish shooting 25% from the field in the period.
In the second half, the Red Raiders jumped back out to a 6-point lead as the Irish struggled to get any offense going, but then Goodwin came alive to drive a nice mini-comeback for ND, and by the 12:25 mark it was a 39-36 game with Texas Tech still in the lead. Soon after, the Irish used threes from Goodwin, Ryan, and Wertz to fuel an 11-2 run that could have potentially been even better, but an offensive goaltending on Texas Tech wasn’t called on a dunk they had and then an Irish basket was taken away by the refs choosing to halt play to check if the shot clock should have been reset.
From there, the Irish held a slim lead but could not extend it past 3 at any point, as Texas Tech clawed their way back each time ND threatened to do so. With 1:21 to go, Tech stole the ball from Blake Wesley, down 1, earning a chance to take the lead on the other end. They missed their shot, but Obanor managed to snag the ball right out of Laszewski’s hands for the offensive rebound, drawing a foul and then hitting two free throws to take the lead.
From there, the Irish just collapsed. Brey continued to call for Wesley to iso and drive into the lane, and he either got blocked or threw it away each time, and Tech hit their free throws down the stretch and eventually landed on a 59-53 victory.
With the loss, Notre Dame’s season has officially come to an end, as the team and fan base will now be faced with a number of off-season questions and storylines surrounding which seniors can and will return for next season, Blake Wesley’s NBA Draft decision, how J.J. Starling and the other freshmen will fit into the plan for 2022-2023, etc.
For right now, though, let’s all appreciate a team that, despite their many flaws, always kept fighting and refused to let setbacks define them, putting together a nice little NCAA Tournament run that few truly saw coming, nearly winning 3 games in 5 days against teams all seeded ahead of them (Rutgers was obviously also an 11, but since ND was the final team in, all at-larges were technically ahead of them). Not too shabby considering the numerous low points this season that made us question if they could even make the NIT.