The ice underneath the Notre Dame men’s basketball team is quickly fracturing, and head coach Mike Brey can feel the frigid water filling his loafers after Monday’s 63-47 home loss to Georgetown. It was the largest margin of defeat for the Fighting Irish in South Bend since losing to Villanova by 17 on March 2, 2009, and the third loss in the last four games.
Jerian Grant led the Irish with 13 points in the second-largest margin of defeat in Brey's 13-year tenure in South Bend
Georgetown jumped on the 24th-ranked Irish early, inflating a 19-8 cushion via Otto Porter jumpers. The sophomore forward finished the first half with 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting from the field and a 2-for-2 effort behind the 3-point arc.
Notre Dame freshman forward Cameron Biedscheid connected on a pair of free throws with around five minutes to play to cut the deficit to 25-21, but Georgetown rattled off nine unanswered points for a 34-21 advantage at the break.
A collection of mini-runs by Notre Dame in the second half was met with timely buckets by the Hoyas (13-4, 3-3 Big East), including a D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera triple after an offensive rebound that gave Georgetown a 43-37 advantage with around 11:30 to play and shifted momentum in favor of the visitors for good.
“Once you get it to three, that offensive rebound that came up that resulted in another three and brought it to six, I mean that was really the turning point of the game,” a dejected Jack Cooley said after the loss. “If we would have gotten that rebound, who knows what would have happened.”
But they didn’t, and they slipped to 15-4 overall and 3-3 in Big East Conference play. Cooley, a senior forward who has been the most consistent of Notre Dame’s starters through this skid, finished with 10 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double of the year. Junior guard Jerian Grant had a team-high 13 points and three assists, and sophomore Pat Connaughton, who hit the squad’s only two 3-pointers of the game, added 12 points and four rebounds.
The Irish shot just 34.7 percent (17-for-49) and were a miserable 2-for-16 (12.5 percent) from 3-point land after entering the game as the league’s top deep-ball shooting group (40.6 percent).
Georgetown, led by Porter’s 19 points and Smith-Rivera’s 14, outrebounded the Irish 35-24, had a 16-6 advantage in bench scoring and outscored ND 8-2 on second-chance opportunities.
“I don’t know what is wrong,” Brey said. “I am disappointed, and it is something that we are going to have to address in the next couple of days. This is a hard league. We are fortunate that they only counted us for one loss with the way that thing went. But all we know is that we are going to come back in tomorrow morning and get to work. We may have to make some changes in our lineup. We have been here before. We are just searching a little bit.”
One change might be switching out sixth-year senior Scott Martin for Biedscheid. Brey said Martin’s knees aren’t holding up well and will be evaluated this week, which will include a light practice load. Biedscheid is 3-for-22 from the field over the last four games.
“I feel for [Martin],” Brey said. “He is trying to give us stuff, but that knee has been an issue. I think that is is affecting all of his phases. It is nice that he has a couple of days off. I don’t know how much he is going to be able to practice the rest of the year. It is nothing major; it is just a lot of wear and tear on a knee that has had two surgeries.”
The hunt for the program’s first Big East Conference regular season championship has been called off for now, with the coming days focusing on introspection and solutions to gain control of a season that’s beginning to spin out.
“It was an eerie feeling to be out of it for the last ten minutes of the game in our home building,” Brey added. “It was creepy. It was eerie. It was not pleasant. It was very foreign territory for all of us, fans included. Unless we can get our gears going it could happen again in this league. Last I checked, we have a pretty meaty February schedule with who is yet to come through here.”