SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey liked what he saw from his Twin Timbers – junior forwards Juwan Durham and John Mooney – after they each produced a double-double in a 69-56 victory over Binghamton on Tuesday night.
“Juwan saved our butts tonight,” Brey said after Durham, a 6-foot-11 transfer from Connecticut, had 16 points and 12 rebounds with four blocks in 20 minutes coming off the bench. “I’m excited about his development, and obviously, Johnny continues to be a consistent man for us.”
The 6-9 Mooney, who had only one double-double coming into the season, produced his sixth of the season – 12 points and 12 rebounds – and T.J. Gibbs added 16 points for the 8-3 Irish, who were playing their first game since losing senior tri-captain Rex Pflueger with a season-ending ACL injury in an 88-80 victory over Purdue last Saturday.
“You can never really replace Rex and all he does for us,” Mooney said. “Juwan has been huge for us all year. He’s going to continue to be big for us. Blocking shots (and) rebounding the ball, he definitely makes our team better.”
Notre Dame struggled early against Binghamton’s 2-3 zone, but Durham provided a spark when called on.
“I thought I would be able to rebound the ball more, and I tried to block shots like I always do,” Durham said. “Just help our team win.”
Freshman point guard Sam Sessoms led the Bearcats (3-9), who lost their fourth straight game, with 25 points thanks to 11-of-18 shooting.
“That was a special performance,” Binghamton coach Tommy Dempsey said. “I was proud of my team’s effort and fight tonight. Their size on the glass was overwhelming at times.”
Notre Dame had a 47-34 edge on the boards, including a 15-6 edge in offensive rebounds. The Irish also had a 7-2 edge in blocked shots, with Mooney picking up a pair.
The Irish survived the Bearcats’ 7-0 start and their own 26-percent shooting (8 of 31) to take a 25-21 halftime lead.
Freshman Dane Goodwin started in place of Pflueger and had five of the starting lineup’s 11 points. But the Irish stayed close and eventually took the lead because the Bearcats endured scoring droughts of 3:53, 3:01 and finally the final 3:16. Goodwin finished with eight points.
Mooney hit one of two free throws to give the Irish their first led, 16-15, with 7:28 remaining, and the teams exchanged the lead seven times before Notre Dame closed with a 5-0 run, with Durham scoring four of his six team-leading first-half points.
The Irish found their shooting eyes in the locker room and began the second half on a 16-4 run in the first 6:58 thanks to 7-of-11 shooting. Their biggest lead was 18 points – 49-31 – with 9:44 to play. The Bearcats closed to within seven, 61-54, on Sessoms’ 3-pointer with 1:45 left but got no closer.
Binghamton: The Bearcats, picked to finish sixth in the nine-team America East, started a three-game road swing nice enough, taking a 7-0 lead in the first 3:32. But they made only seven of their last 19 shots, committed 10 personals and had eight turnovers in the first 20 minutes. A 1-for-7 shooting start in the second half was too much to overcome.
Notre Dame: Fighting Irish are down to eight scholarship players after season-ending injuries to Pflueger (he will have surgery after New Year’s), freshman guard Robby Carmody (torn labrum in left shoulder that will require post-Christmas surgery) and senior forward Elijah Burns (left team in November, received degree in December and is seeking NCAA waiver to play immediately for Siena).
Binghamton: Bearcats visit Barclays Center to play LIU Brooklyn Saturday.
Notre Dame: Fighting Irish play host to Jacksonville Thursday.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25