Other recaps will talk tonight about TJ Gibbs’ gamewinner with 0.1 seconds left. Or Rex Pflueger’s halftime steal and subsequent buzzer beater. That’s fair. But all that would be to ignore the most important player, by far, for the Fighting Irish: John Mooney. Whenever Notre Dame needed him, John Mooney was there, just as he’s been all season. The senior forward is the Irish’s leading scorer and rebounder –he’s also always been a thorn in Boston College’s side. So it should come as no surprise that he came out with a casual 22 points when Notre Dame’s tournament hopes were on the line. The Irish rode those 22 points to a comeback victory over your Boston College Eagles by a score of 62-61. Mooney’s mark led all scorers, while Jay Heath, Steffon Mitchell, and Derryck Thornton all had 12 for BC.
The first half was a tale of two offenses. The Eagles, facing an early Notre Dame zone, found ample success passing both inside and out; 10 of their 16 first half field goals were assisted. At the heart of it all was Mitchell, who racked up 8/6/6 and had a few great feeds to CJ Felder inside. Julian Rishwain hit two timely threes when the Irish looked like they were gaining some momentum, and the team finished the half shooting 42% from deep.
Notre Dame had less success. The Eagles, noticeably lethargic on Saturday against Clemson, were much more active in passing lanes and much quicker to recover on defense. Gibbs, shooting 53% in conference play from beyond the arc, went just 1-4. The Irish bench scored just 2 points. The only one bucking the trend was, as always, John Mooney. He continued to terrorize the Eagles, posting a whopping 17 points in the first and feasting on the block when his teammates couldn’t make a shot.
But one player could only do so much, and the Eagles used a 10-0 run near halftime to storm ahead. The Eagles weren’t content to take that lead to halftime, however, and prepared to run one more play to add to a 10-point advantage. But disaster struck, and Pfluger intercepted a pass intended for a flaring Jay Heath and hit a half court shot as halftime expired. The Eagles entered the locker room up by 7, and every BC fan muttered under their breath: “this will surely come back to haunt us.” They were exactly as right as they feared.
The Irish started the second half with a quick burst of points to pull them to just about even, at which point the teams just sort of resumed going back and forth with the Eagles retaining a slim lead. That as, of course, until an astonishing sequence at the midway mark where the teams went 5 minutes without a point. Both of them. It was the most bonkers thing I’ve seen in a minute, if it hadn’t been for that turnover a half hour prior.
I swear it's like these two teams completely forgot how to play basketball for 5 minutes, then suddenly remembered. Points are comin in now, and BC retains a 55-52 lead— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) February 27, 2020
This was the point the Eagles should have put the game away. But they couldn’t capitalize on Notre Dame’s sloppy play. Heath and Thornton both gave the ball up multiple times, while Popovic missed easy layups and dropped what should have been a sure steal. By the time that they had figured something out, Notre Dame had too.
By the time the last minute rolled around though, you thought that they just might pull it out. The teams had been scoreless since Gibbs hit a layup with 1:16 left to put the Irish ahead 60-59, so maybe it could work out. And when Jay Heath, with the same ice in his veins as he has had all year, hit the floater to make it 61-60, I sighed in relief. But we’re BC fans, and we all know we’re not allowed to have nice things. The Irish sprinted down the court and Gibbs validated all of our feelings of inevitable dread, hitting a shovel-pass-esque layup with 0.1 seconds left. 61-60 Notre Dame. Game over.
At the very least we probably don’t have to see John Mooney ever again.
Other Game Notes:
1) You all can talk about JC. I’ve said what I think before, and it hasn’t changed. He’s not the answer.
2) Steffon Mitchell deserves a lot of praise for this game – he was so effective tonight and came within an assist of a triple-double. If he transfers, or gets hurt, this team isn’t even competitive.
3) Nik Popovic played perhaps the worst game I’ve seen him play. He looked abysmal out there, and one has to think that BC can win this game if he’s scores more than 0 points.