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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Battles in 57-55 Loss to No. 7 Virginia

February 18, 2023

Notre Dame (10-17, 2-14) showed a level of execution that had been missing for most of the year, but it still wasn’t enough as No. 7 Virginia (21-4, 13-3) did just enough to escape 57-55 on Saturday afternoon. 

The Irish held Virginia without a field goal over the final 3:22 and were at the free throw line down 57-54 with 3.9 seconds remaining. Trey Wertz knocked home the first and Mike Brey called timeout to set up a miss. Wertz executed it perfectly as the ball bounced off the back of the rim and the tip fell into Dane Goodwin’s hands. Goodwin’s shot didn’t go down and so did Notre Dame’s hopes of earning its first program win at Virginia as the Irish fell to 0-8 in Charlottesville. 

“I’m still looking at Goodwin’s shot thinking we couldn’t ask for a better look,” stated Brey. “I love how we played. We gave ourselves a chance in both games this week in tough environments. You have to give credit to Virginia. They’ve got a calmness about them to go ahead and finish. 

How did the Irish play a top 10 so close on the road? Defense. Notre Dame held Virginia to just 37 percent from the field and 29 percent (7/24) from three-point range. Brey’s team also took advantage of inside as Notre Dame outscored the Cavaliers 22-14 in the paint. 

“They’re really hard to keep out of there,” Brey explained. “In a game like this, if they make double-digit threes and you overhelp, you’re going to lose by 15. But because it was two-point shots and because their tempo always does give you chance, you’re able to stay within striking distance.

“We did a good enough job of stopping the bleeding enough to have a chance.”  

Virginia point guard Kehei Clark set the program record for career assists as he finished with four assists, but also 15 points on 4-of-7 shooting from the field. 

“I told Clark it’s hopefully the last time I’ll see him,” said Brey. “I really don’t want to see him anymore. He’s the ultimate winner. I said you are a big-time winner. Just so impressed with his career.” 

Nate Laszewski only shot four times in Tuesday’s loss to Duke and was aggressive from the start. The fifth-year senior went 6-of-14 from the floor to finish with a game-high 18 points. 

Notre Dame found itself down 29-25 at the half, but came out firing as they took a 31-29 lead less than two minutes into the second half. Laszewski scored four quick points as part of his 11-point half, while Cormac Ryan chipped in an early bucket as he finished with eight points and two rebounds. 

Brey did start freshman Ven-Allen Lubin, but he quickly downshifted for most of the game as Lubin only played seven minutes and Matt Zona chipped in 16 minutes off the bench. 

“It’s helped us at times to downshift,” Brey stated. “Matt Zona gave us great minutes. He has not played as much. When we get Goodwin as that second big, if we’re not getting beat up on the backboard at the other end, we have the ability to score, drive and kick. 

“They were smaller, so it kind of worked. Sometimes even if a team is big, we’ll substitute a guard for a big so Nate is our only big. Now you can spread the floor.” 

The Irish also handled Virginia’s pesky defense well for the most part as Notre Dame recorded just eight turnovers and scored six points in transition compared to zero from the Cavaliers. 

Virginia head coach Tony Bennett wanted to honor Brey pregame as it was his last time coaching Notre Dame in Charlottesville. Brey respectfully declined, but Bennett still came through with a gift for the Irish head man. 

“It was a good whiskey,” laughed Brey. “I’m going to try it tonight I can tell you that much. I’ll be home in time to try it. He said I’d like to say something on the PA, I said I’m good. We don’t need to do that. I’m really close with Tony and have the utmost respect for him. Instead, they dropped off a bottle of Irish whiskey.” 

Notre Dame will host North Carolina on Wednesday night for a 9:00 PM ET tip on ESPN. 

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