The Notre Dame Fighting Irish played a pair of hard-fought away games against tough competition this week, coming up short even as they showed heart and a game spirit. Let’s talk about the things that made that near-success possible.
Last Week’s Results
L @ Duke Blue Devils, 68-64
L @ Virginia Cavaliers, 57-55
A close road loss in Durham followed by another heartbreaker against the seventh-ranked Hoos. What did we learn?
Performance of the Week
Another chance to highlight a great effort by a beloved super-senior! He didn’t follow it up with a great effort against UVA, but Dane Goodwin put up a great performance under pressure against Duke, scoring 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting - 19 of which were in the second half (and 17 of which were consecutive!) and generally playing the primary role in keeping the Irish in the game. Goodwin also was a disruptor on the defensive side of the ball, with two steals.
Like Nate Laszewski and Cormac Ryan at earlier points this season, Goodwin gets a shoutout here for continuing to fight in a season where the Irish have little left to play for.
This week would have felt very different for Notre Dame if a couple seconds at the end of each game had unfolded just a bit differently. Against Duke, the Irish were in desperate need of a stop when a defensive breakdown allowed an open 3-pointer to Mark Mitchell, all but sealing the game for the Blue Devils. Every time Duke needed a bucket they got it as the Irish played catch-up throughout the finalminutes.
Where the Irish couldn’t get a stop against Duke, they couldn’t get a bucket in Charlottesville. A missed, potentially game-tying free throw by Trey Wertz was followed by a wide-open 3-point miss by Goodwin in the final seconds, and the Irish missed two golden opportunities to either win or send the game into overtime. Two games, and two complete failures in final-minute execution - and two losses that could have been redemptive wins.
One other moral victory we saw this week was a significant improvement in defensive play, particularly against Virginia. The Irish held the Cavaliers to only 36.5% shooting and stopped the bleeding when a potentially game-ending Virginia run in the second half culminated in a 53-45 lead. In a rare moment of high-quality in-game coaching this season, the Irish adjusted and found the stops they needed to get back into the game and nearly win it.
For a team that has struggled against even the least competent offenses it has faced, this was a nice moment of both schematic adjustment and physical resilience.