SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Notre Dame was dealt a tough hand when senior forward Tim Abromaitis went down with a season-ending injury at a practice on Nov. 25. Now the Irish are forced to take it one game at a time with its young roster.
“How do we respond and come back and play the next game?” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey asked after a 73-53 loss to No. 19 Gonzaga on Wednesday night. “That’s where we are at with this team — day to day. There are some things to build on and there are some things to accept responsibility to be better at.”
The Irish started one senior, two juniors and two sophomores against the Bulldogs.
“We got our butts handed to us tonight,” Brey said. “Our problem was how good Gonzaga’s defense was. Their defense really flustered us and this home atmosphere, which is awesome, had us flustered.”
Robert Sacre and David Stockton both scored 15 points for the Bulldogs, while Kevin Pangos added 12 and Elias Harris had 11 points and 15 rebounds for Gonzaga (5-0). Nine players scored for the Bulldogs, who shot 45.9 percent from the field and made six of 15 3-point attempts.
Jerian Grant scored 16 points for Notre Dame (5-3) and Pat Connaughton added 11. The Irish made 20 of 52 shots, were forced into 17 turnovers and were outrebounded 40-32.
Gonzaga led by as many as 19 points in the first half but Notre Dame closed within 13 at halftime and cut it to 43-34 early in the second half. Tom Knight and Grant scored four points apiece during the Irish’s 8-2 run.
Stockton and Pangos hit 3-pointers during a 9-2 Gonzaga run that restored the lead to 52-36 with 11:12 left.
Gonzaga made 5 of 6 3-point attempts in the second half to put the game away.
In its second game after the loss of Abromaitis, a first-team all-Big East preseason pick, Notre Dame was outmatched on the front line. The senior tore his ACL in his right knee and is out for the season. Gonzaga scored 38 points in the paint, compared to just 28 for Notre Dame.
“We pretty much go inside on anybody and everybody, that’s just how we play,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We got into them a little and turned them over a little bit. Being in this environment affected that some and that definitely got us going.”
Notre Dame struggled early, making 1 of its first 8 shots and trailed 12-3. Gonzaga extended its lead to 25-8 after a 13-5 run, with baskets from five players. Notre Dame fell behind 33-14 with 2:54 remaining but outscored Gonzaga 8-2 the rest of the half to make it 35-22.
“We just wanted to never have them be comfortable on offense and then we were very concerned about their 3s,” Few said.
Gonzaga forced 13 first-half turnovers which resulted in 17 points. Notre Dame finished the half making 7 of 24 shots, including just 2 of 9 from behind the arc.
“This is a good test for our resiliency because we are going to be in some tough things here, trying to figure out who we are,” Brey said.
Abromaitis was a big part of the Notre Dame’s 83-79 victory over Gonzaga last season. He scored 21 points, including four 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds.
Last season was the inaugural matchup for these programs and this was the final game in the home-and-home series.
Gonzaga improved to 92-6 in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
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