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Notre Dame Basketball

Technical knockout: Hokies overpower Irish, 62-51

January 27, 2021

Turns out, time is a flat circle sometimes in college basketball, too.

It appeared that a bad second half some 17 days earlier managed to transition into the opening half Wednesday night for Notre Dame inside Purcell Pavilion.

The Fighting Irish, outscored 41-21 in the second half of a blowout-loss January 10 at Virginia Tech, saw the No. 20 Hokies open this rematch with a 28-13 scoring blitz.

Notre Dame on a good night would be hard-pressed to dig itself from any type of double-digit deficit. On a night where the Irish were hammered on the boards, shot atrociously and also were haphazard with the basketball?

No shot. The Hokies pummeled their hosts, 62-51, in a game that marked the 28th-straight loss to a ranked foe for Notre Dame (5-9, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference).

“Well, I don't want to see them again,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “They've shut us down physically and defended us twice now. We've got no answers, and I don't know if I helped our guys much offensively.

“It's just a heck of a group and they're men and they're physical in the lane offensively and are really athletic defensively. There was nothing close to any type of offensive rhythm and it was because of their defense.”

As it did in the first meeting this season, Virginia Tech (12-3, 6-2 ACC) again placed a quartet of players in double figures – led by Naheim Alleyne's 15 points. Justyn Mutts added 14 points and 11 boards – a line that boosted Mutts' two-game tear against the Irish to 28 points and 18 boards.

“I might be running out of buttons” to push, Brey said. “Against, we haven't had any answers. …

“You know what was demoralizing was, God, we had a couple of layups where we beat a guy and some of the recovery blocks they made athletically, that's a whole other level.”

Prentiss Hubb tried to will the Irish back into the game late in the first half, helping ignite a 9-3 run into the intermission that turned a deficit that twice was 15 points into a potentially manageable 31-22 mark.

Hubb finished with 22 points, four rebounds, three assists and four turnovers in 35 minutes.

“Kind of tough,” Hubb said. “Our shots weren't really falling. They came out really aggressive, but I think that we fought back a little bit in that first half. We got it to nine points.”

Yet the Hokies, not the Irish, set the tone in the opening moments of the final frame. Less than eight minutes into the second half, Notre Dame again stared at a 15-point deficit, 50-35, and it never trailed by single digits in the game's final 18-plus minutes.

Twice Notre Dame cut its second-half deficit down to 10 points, and as Dane Goodwin polished off his own 4-0 run to leave the score 53-43 with 6 minutes, 43 seconds to play, the Irish again had one last chance to snap their years-long losing streak against ranked teams.

Tech promptly answered with an Alleyne 3, and Notre Dame never again threatened.

The Irish were outrebounded, 46-36, and committed more turnovers, 12-10. The Hokies' bench outscored Notre Dame's reserves 13-4. The Irish also played with guard Cormac Ryan, who missed due to a minor foot injury.

“You know I actually think starting with the Boston College game, we've played with a little more edge and a little more physicality,” Brey said. “And I thought a couple plays tonight we were in position and, like they did in Blacksburg (Virginia), they just jump over you. We fought to get our chest in front of people and just couldn't finish the play.

“I think we've upped it really, and it was demoralizing that we couldn't get anything going offensively. There's no question, Cormac obviously helps us and is another guard that maybe go off the dribble and make a play. Prentiss was about the only guy to do that most of the night. Dane did a little more in the second half.”

Trey Wertz added seven for the Irish, and Nate Laszewski, who had 17 points in 29 minutes in the first matchup with the Hokies, finished with just seven points in 37 minutes. He led the team with 10 boards but also had five turnovers.

“This level of intensity for Trey (Wertz) is something he's adjusting to,” Brey said. “I do think he's improved, understanding how physical the game is in this league.

“But it's still a learning curve for him. Some of his drives in the second half, where he was kind of pissed and went in and got a three-point play, he hasn't done that. I don't think he's ever really had to do that against those kind of bodies.”

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