SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — After leading scorer T.J. Gibbs left the building prior to Notre Dame's game with Boston College Saturday, Mike Brey got encore performances from reliable John Mooney and unexpected starter Prentiss Hubb in a 69-66 victory.
"It just came down to me having my teammates' back," said Hubb, who overcame a recent shooting slump to swish a pair of free throws with 2.6 seconds left while scoring a career-high 16 points.
Mooney had his eighth double-double of the season - a career-high 27 points and 12 rebounds - as roster-depleted Notre Dame (11-5, 1-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) survived despite zero points from its bench and no field goals in the last 4:15.
"As T.J. was exiting the building throwing up, I walked in and told our guys, 'We've got six (players) and Liam (Nelligan, a walk-on) be ready," Brey said. "Let's make it a great story. And it is. I'm really proud of our group. A lot of different guys stepped forward and made plays. Great for Prentiss, and Johnny continues to be a flat-out man."
Already with two players gone with season-ending surgeries, another who transferred and a fourth, shot-blocking Juwan Durham, nursing an injured ankle, Brey got 22 minutes from reserve Nikola Djogo, who didn't score but gave Notre Dame's five starters breathers.
"All six are happy about their playing time today," Brey quipped.
Especially Hubb, who came into the game having hit just 11 of his last 68 field-goal attempts, including just 4 of 38 from 3-point land. Brey was going to let Hubb, who had started the last 13 games, work his way out of the slump from the bench, but Gibbs' pregame illness that started with a migraine, changed that.
"My teammates count on me in practice and in games," Hubb said. "They expect me to make big-time plays like that."
"P-Hubb was killing tonight," said Mooney, who drew his fourth personal with 3:45 left but was 8-of-13 shooting and 9-for-9 at the free-throw line as Notre Dame made 20 of 23 to Boston College's eight of 10. "No one is feeling bad for us."
Jim Christian's Eagles (9-6, 0-3) got 24 points and 16 rebounds from Ky Bowman, whose layup with 15 seconds remaining erased an 11-point deficit and gave Boston College a 66-65 lead, its first since 12:35 of the first half.
Nik Popovic had 15 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in the final minute to give the visitors a chance. Wynston Tabbs added 13 points for the Eagles, whose own bench had just three points.
"I knew we'd come back - we have a lot of heart and we made plays," Christian said. "We wanted to make him (Hubb) beat us. They have a lot of different weapons."
Hubb, hitting three 3-pointers in the first half, had 11 points and Mooney 10 as Notre Dame took a 31-25 halftime lead.
Mooney tossed in a short hook with 15:29 left in the second half to increase the Irish lead to 11 and Christian called a timeout. Mooney then hit a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame a 49-35 lead with 14:38 to go that completed an 8-0 run.
The Eagles held the Irish without a basket for 4:59 and closed within four on Bowman's 3-point play. But Notre Dame regained its 11-point lead, 58-47, on five points from Dale Goodwin and Christian called another timeout at 8:13.
Boston College went on an 8-0 run over the next 3:02 during which Brey called two timeouts. Mooney then hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to put the Irish up 63-57 with 4:15 to go.
Boston College: The Eagles used nine players in the first half but got only three points from its bench, which outnumbered Notre Dame's reserves 13-3. The Eagles shot just 29.4 percent in the first half (10 of 34) and were outrebounded 24-22.
Notre Dame: Brey started his sixth different lineup of the season against Boston College in attempting to break Irish two-game losing streak in the ACC. Freshman Nate Laszewski, a 6-foot-10 forward, got his first start, joining fellow classmates Hubb and Dane Goodwin. Gibbs has averaged 14.7 points per game, including 18.5 in Notre Dame's ACC losses to Virginia Tech and Syracuse.
The Irish had just three players dressed on their bench - freshman Chris Doherty, who is being redshirted, graduate walk-on Liam Nelligan and junior swingman Nikola Djogo. In addition to Gibbs and Durham, who sat on the bench in street clothes resting an injured ankle, Notre Dame is without two players who have had season-ending surgery - senior guard Rex Pflueger (torn ACL) and freshman guard Robby Carmody (torn labrum). Another player, Elijah Burns, graduated in the first semester and transferred to Siena.
Durham injured an ankle in 81-66 loss to Virginia Tech but played 24 minutes in 72-62 loss to Syracuse. Brey said Gibbs had a migraine and queasiness during pregame shooting drills and was sent back to the team hotel (second semester classes start next week). Pflueger, who will return for a fifth season, had his surgery Friday but was in the locker room and helping out behind the bench.
STATS AND STUFF
Boston College finished the game shooting 40 percent (26 of 65) after shooting just 29 percent in the first half (10 of 34). Bowman was 8 of 17, including 4 of 7 from beyond the stripe, while Popovic was 7 of 13 from the field.
Notre Dame only shot 34.4 percent (21 of 61) for the game and lost the battle of the boards by one carom, 40-41, as Mooney had 12 and Laszewski grabbed 10. Mooney also had three blocks.
THE D.C. PIPELINE
At halftime, Notre Dame honored Bob Whitmore (1966-69) by inducting him into the Purcell Pavilion Ring of Honor. Whitmore, who is battling illnesses, was accompanied by DeMatha's legendary 87-year-old coach Morgan Wootten, who coached Brey and later employed him as an assistant.
Whitmore was the trailblazer for several players with Washington, District of Columbia (and surrounding area) connections to play for Notre Dame, including two of the school's leading all-time scorers in Macklin's Austin Carr (first) and DeMatha's Adrian Dantley (third).
The 6-foot-7 Whitmore scored 1,508 points and grabbed 1,043 rebounds in his three seasons playing for the late John Dee. When the Athletic and Convocation Center (now the Purcell Pavilion), opened in December 1968 with a Notre Dame game against John Wooden's UCLA Bruins, Whitmore jumped center against Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).
"(Whitmore's) numbers were staggering," Brey said. "I showed the players a picture of the opening tip 50 years ago (when the Purcell Pavilion opened). 'Do you recognize who Bob's jumping against?' Crickets. They don't know Lew Alcindor, Kareem . I'm getting old."
The D.C. Pipeline includes associate head coach Rod Balanis (who played for Wootten), current players D.J. Harvey (DeMatha) and Hubb (Gonzaga), former school president Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy (Archbishop Carroll), Collis Jones (St. John's), Sid Catlett (DeMatha), Don "Duck" Williams (Macklin), Monty Williams (Potomac) and Jerian Grant (DeMatha).
Boston College: Eagles fly to Louisville Wednesday.
Notre Dame: Fighting Irish at No. 12 North Carolina Tuesday.
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