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Notre Dame Basketball

Dominated on glass, Notre Dame still winless in ACC

January 10, 2021

At some point, surrendering all the offensive rebounds must become, well, offensive for Notre Dame.

Otherwise, this downtrodden start to Atlantic Coast Conference play for Notre Dame is not likely to relent.

So the setting changes. Home. Away. In a 'Castle’ in Blacksburg, Virginia.

The end result? Not so much.

Once again Notre Dame on Sunday night positioned itself to claim its first Atlantic Coast Conference win of this perpetually COVID-19 impacted season.

Yet again, the Fighting Irish ran out of … whatever it is they're missing on any given night to close out a ballgame.

It was a general lack of competitiveness on the boards in this game, which saw host Virginia Tech outrebounded its guests, 41-24 – 16 of them on the Hokies' offensive end and leading to 15 second-chance points.

After it led 42-35 at the half and had closed the first frame on an 14-5 sprint, Notre Dame once again faltered in the second half of a 77-63 loss to the Hokies (9-2, 3-1 ACC).

“For that kind of stuff, I don't think there's really anything you can tweak around with your game plan,” said Irish fifth-year senior Nik Djogo. “I think we really just have to dig in when the other team is making a run. When they're getting more aggressive offensively, we have to do our part to lock in defensively and get those loose ones.

“I mean, we just have to want it more than we do.”

For as bad as the Irish (3-7, 0-4) were owned on the glass, they were absolutely worse on the offensive end in the second half – where they connected on a meager two of 19 field-goal attempts.

“Just our mentality coming out was a lot different,” said Tech forward Justyn Mutts, who had 14 points and seven rebounds. “We had to come out a lot more gritty. We gave up 42 points in the first half and that's ridiculous.”

Not quite as theater of the absurd as Notre Dame's second half. Prentiss Hubb made a mid-range jumper more than six minutes into the second half; Hubb made a 3-pointer about 90 seconds later that gave the Irish a 50-49 lead.

It was the last lead of the game for Notre Dame.

“I think we're still trying to learn how to be more mentally tough when we aren't in a good offensive rhythm, we can still defend,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “I think our attitude to defend was better in the first half because we were scoring.”

Nate Laszewski once again paced Notre Dame in scoring with 17 points, while Dane Goodwin added a dozen off the bench – but only scored two points from the free-throw line in the second half. Cormac Ryan added 10.

Jalen Cone led the Hokies with 18 and Hunter Cattoor added 15, a trio of timely 3-pointers. Keve Aluma added 15 and 12 rebounds.

Up next for the Irish is a game Wednesday at Virginia, which earlier defeated Notre Dame 66-57 inside Purcell Pavillion. Tip-off for that game inside the John Paul Jones Arena is set for 4:30 p.m.

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