Editor’s note: Tom King is the owner and lead writer of Slap The Sign, a Notre Dame blog from the Fanside Network. Tom has agreed to help cover Fighting Irish Basketball for Subway Domer.
Home sweet home. There’s a saying home is where the heart is, but for the Irish, home is where the jumpers fall.
After a horrendous shooting performance in Wednesday’s 72-58 loss to No. 16 Kentucky, Notre Dame made 11 three-pointers and shot 50% from the field on their way to an 83-79 win over Gonzaga at Purcell Pavillion.
Gonzaga, trailing by as many as 14 points in the second half, closed the gap over the final minute, but couldn’t pull out the win.
The Irish held a 10-point lead with just over a minute to play, but almost coughed up the game with turnovers and missed free throws. Notre Dame missed 12 of its 36 free throws, allowing Gonzaga to pull within two on a three-pointer from Mangisto Arop. Ben Hansbrough, however, sunk four free throws in the final 12 seconds to ice the game and improve Notre Dame’s record to a tidy 9-1.
Robert Sacre and Elias Harris powered Gonzaga to an early lead, combining for 17 of Gonzaga’s first 20 points.
Notre Dame took is first lead of the game with 12 minutes left in the first half when Tim Abromaitis made his second consecutive three-pointer to give the Irish a 22-20 lead. The Irish retained the lead throughout a hotly contested, well-executed first half behind the sensational play of Carleton Scott.
Scott bested his previous career-high of 17 points in the first half, registering 19 points (23 for the game). Abromaitis took over the scoring load in the second half with 12 crucial points (21 for the game).
Offensively, the game was a treat to watch. Both teams made 11 of their 20 three-point attempts, and shot over 50% for the game. Gonzaga turned the ball over just nine times, Notre Dame eight.
Ultimately, the game was decided by the point guard play. Hansbrough played solid, contributing 13 points, while freshman Erik Atkins had his best game yet, adding 12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, and no turnovers. On the other side, Demetri Goodson was held scoreless and was a complete non-factor.
With Goodson struggling, Steven Gray assumed the primary ball-handling responsibilities. Gray matched his season average with 18 points and dished out eight assists. Harris (19 points), Sacre (16 points), and Arop (16 points) also reached double-figures for the ‘Zags.
With the loss, Gonzaga falls to 4-5 on the season ,however, four of the five losses were to ranked opponents. Despite the rocky start, expect Gonzaga to be Gonzaga by the end of the season. The ‘Zags played well last night and will continue to improve as Harris gets healthy and coach Mark Few works his magic. Trust me, at the end of the season, this non-conference win is going to look good on Notre Dame’s tournament resume.
Notre Dame will now play two cupcakes (Stony Brook and UMBC) before opening Big East play with a hellacious three-game stretch of Georgetown, Syracuse, and Uconn. All three teams are currently ranked in the top 10.