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Notre Dame Basketball

Virginia Tech Ends Notre Dame's Season, Mike Brey's Tenure 67-64

March 7, 2023

Notre Dame (11-21, 3-17) had the opportunity to get over the hurdle of failing in game situations on Tuesday night in the opening round of the ACC Tournament. 

Down three with 2.4 seconds left, Nate Laszewski missed an open look from three to give Virginia Tech (19-13, 8-12) a 67-64 victory and ended Mike Brey’s 23-year run at Notre Dame. 

It was a story all too familiar with the veterans during their time at Notre Dame as they did just enough to hang around as it was the ninth loss by five or less points this season. 

“A great ACC Tournament game,” stated Brey. “Amazingly physical. Proud of our guys. We came down here with a clean slate after a really tough regular season. We emptied the tank to try and get over the hump.

“I think Virginia Tech is really good. I’m disappointed for them. It’s been a great group of young men even though we haven’t won like we wanted. They hung in there.”

The Fighting Irish did show fight missing for most of the year as Notre Dame found itself down 23-12 with 7:38 left in the opening 20 minutes. Virginia Tech used a 9-0 run to take the 11-point advantage as the Irish didn’t hit a field goal for almost six minutes. 

Virginia Tech’s lead was quickly cut to three following three-pointers from Dane Goodwin, Marcus Hammond and Matt Zona over a two-minute stretch. Hammond, who scored a game-high 23 points in his final game, scored a layup and Zona hit a three to tie the game at 28 with 2:41 left in the first half. 

“I’m thrilled for Marcus Hammond,” stated Brey. “We finally got him healthy.” 

The Hokies held a 33-32 advantage at halftime and then the game went back and forth over the final 20 minutes. In fact, there were 16 lead changes and five ties in the game as the team exchanged mini runs and cold spells. 

Notre Dame trailed 63-62 with under a minute to play and held possession of the ball. Virginia Tech guard Sean Pedulla was called for a foul, but then Zona elbowed him in the face and stepped on him drawing a technical foul and his fifth foul. 

“I gotta digest it a little bit,” explained Brey. “I’ll be very honest now that I’m not in the league anymore. I think that last play, if you have an A-officiating crew, and that was not an A-crew, you say that’s a basketball play. We shoot the free throws and we play basketball. 

“I think we got a little over analyzation on that part of it. Look. Virginia Tech made plays, but I don’t think that was handled right. We had some turnovers and made mistakes too. I think you go that’s a basketball play in a great game and you shoot the free throws and let the game play out. That’s a big-time crew.”  

Trey Wertz, who was 1-for-7 from the field, made two free throws to give the Irish a one-point lead. Pedulla then split the technical free throws to tie the game with 42.2 seconds to play. Following a Virginia Tech timeout, Justyn Mutts got loose for a dunk, which proved to be the game-winner. 

Mutts finished with 18 points, 13 rebounds and four assists on the night. 

Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan joined Hammond in double figures with 18 points. Virginia Tech star Grant Basile was efficient as he recorded a quiet 20 points on 7-of-11 from the field. 

Laszewski finished his Notre Dame career going 2-for-8 from the field for four points while pulling down six rebounds. 

Brey will end his Notre Dame career with the all-time leader in program wins and 13 NCAA Tournament appearances in the blue and gold. 

“Unbelievably honored,” said Brey. “23 years I’ve been able to be the coach at Notre Dame. It’s been a flat-out honor. My bosses are here tonight - Father John (Jenkins) and Jack Swarbrick. They’ve been amazingly supportive. Even though this year didn’t go well, I’m proud of how we’ve run the program. I think we are going to get a heck of a head coach. I’m going to help our administration recruit the next guy.”

Notre Dame will now look to find Brey’s successor as the Irish have conducted a national search to this point. The Transfer Portal window will open from March 13-May 11, so it will be crucial for a timely hire to be made to sell returning players on staying, but also to build a roster that will lose six players to graduation. 

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