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Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024
The Observer

Irish drop must-win game in final seconds against No. 7 Florida State

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team collapsed at home Wednesday night in a game they controlled virtually from the outset. The Irish (18-12, 9-10 ACC) fell to the No. 7-ranked Seminoles in a game Notre Dame desperately needed to win to maintain any hope of receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

Senior forward John Mooney got the Irish on the board first, scoring their first four points until the Seminoles (25-5, 15-4 ACC) took the lead with a 3-pointer. From there, it seemed to be Notre Dame’s game.

Sophomore guard Prentiss Hubb answered with his own three to reclaim the lead for Notre Dame, and Mooney contributed one of his own to double up Florida State at 10-5. The Seminoles made a run to cut it to 10-9, but the hot shooting continued for the hosts as Hubb nailed another shot from downtown and sophomore forward Nate Laszewski chipped in with one of his own.

The Seminoles kept the margin close, but the Irish managed to steadily build their margin back up. A basket by sophomore guard Dane Goodwin and two from Hubb, including yet another three, made it a five-point lead. As the score stood at 34-31, an 8-2 run by Notre Dame made it a 42-33 game, but the Irish allowed the Seminoles to a buzzer-beating layup to send the teams into the intermission with Notre Dame leading 42-35.

Nathanial George | The Observer
Notre Dame sophomore forward Nate Laszewski cuts to the basket during Wednesday's game against Florida State at Purcell Pavilion.

Coming out of the break, Florida State cut the lead to 44-40, but Goodwin soon went on a solo scoring tear, putting up 10 consecutive points for Notre Dame to make it a 54-43 game. The Irish eventually ballooned their lead to 61-48, their largest advantage of the contest, but from then on they went cold.

After Hubb’s three made it a 13-point margin with just over 10 minutes left in the game, Goodwin would register the team’s only two points in the following seven minutes of action as Florida State steadily trimmed the lead to 63-61. Still, though, Florida State could not claim the lead. After tying the game up on their next basket, graduate student guard Rex Pflueger hit a huge three to give the Irish a slight cushion.

On the next possession, the Seminoles were granted three free throws on a foul, draining them all to knot the score once more, this time at 66. The free throw battle continued from there as Goodwin nailed two and Florida State did likewise. After senior guard T.J. Gibbs went 1-2 from the line to give Notre Dame a one-point advantage, Goodwin came up with a big rebound and Hubb drained a step-back jumper from the short corner to give Notre Dame a three-point lead once again.

Unfortunately, those two points would be the last for the Irish. Seminoles senior guard Trent Forrest drew a foul on Mooney and sank the shot, then completed the three-point play to knot it up. Hubb dribbled to the baseline on the next play and pivoted after picking up his dribble. He managed to lull his defender up the lane and executed a drop step on the baseline, but botched the layup, and he and Pflueger failed to corral the rebound.

With the shot clock turned off, Florida State came down and missed their initial shot, but the primary defender Mooney, who notched his 25th double-double of the season in the game and is the national leader in that category, failed to secure the board on the defensive end, as Trent grabbed it and muscled in a paint bucket to give FSU a 73-71 lead with 3.8 seconds left.

A half-court heave by Hubb at the buzzer bounced off the back of the rim and the Irish fell as the Seminoles held the lead for only 19 seconds of gameplay on the entire evening.

Hubb led the Irish with 24 points and six assists, while Mooney achieved the Milestone of grabbing 900 career rebounds. The Irish were outscored 34-18 in the paint, but knocked down 11 threes to Florida State’s five.

With the loss, the Irish must win their final regular season game against Virginia Tech on senior night to break even in their conference slate, which would be their first time doing so since the 2016-17 season. Notre Dame’s tournament prospects are now bleak at best, and an ACC Tournament championship is likely the only path for them to punch a ticket to the Big Dance.

The Irish will take on the Hokies (16-14, 7-12 ACC) at 2 p.m. Saturday in Purcell Pavilion.