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Notre Dame Basketball

Notre Dame Fights to 74-66 Win Over Virginia Tech

February 10, 2024
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In a game of runs, Notre Dame (8-16, 3-10) made a second half statement by holding Virginia Tech (13-10, 5-7) to just 32 percent from the field and 15 percent from three as the Irish ended a seven-game losing streak by beating the Hokies 74-66. 

Micah Shrewsberry’s team blitzed the Hokies out of halftime with a run of 9-0, which turned a four-point Virginia Tech lead into a five-point advantage for the home team. It was a run Notre Dame hadn’t made often this year, and it was quite the statement, given the struggles of the young group. 

“Just the composure that they showed,” Shrewsberry stated. “There were times I looked out there, and I’m like, ‘We have four freshmen and a 19-year-old sophomore that are out there playing.’ With that, I thought everybody came and really contributed good things for us.

“JR (Konieczny) in the first half, (Julian) Roper at times. Roper made that big shot. Tae (Davis) driving the ball and guarding. (Matt) Zona. Everybody came in and did really big things for us and we needed it. We needed every bit of it.” 

It’s routine at this point, but Markus Burton led the way for the Irish with 16 points, while Braeden Shrewsberry continued his high level of play by scoring 12 points on seven shots. Notre Dame also got a third player in double figures as Kebba Njie scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting. 

In fact, Notre Dame played nine players on Saturday and they all ended up in the scoring column as the Irish shot a blistering 49 percent from the field. The Irish also totaled 11 fastbreak points and dished out 14 assists, which is five more than their season average. 

Virginia Tech was led by Hunter Cattoor with 18 points, but 12 came in the first half. Sean Pedulla added 13 points for the Hokies on 4-for-12 from the field. 

BURTON SHINES
In addition to Burton leading the way with 16 points, the freshman point guard added four rebounds, eight assists and six steals on the night. The defensive effort was more than welcome, but also something Burton wanted to focus on entering the game. 

“A lot of schools and coaches know I can score the ball,” stated Burton. “Coach Shrews is really big on defense. Coming out of high school, I wasn’t really a defender like that because the teams we played in high school weren’t like that. He talked to me a lot every day, ‘I’m a defensive guy. I need you. I need your best effort.’

“I feel like when I put my mind to something and I’m willing to do something for the team, I feel like today I was able to show I can sit down and lock up some of the great players we played today.” 

Burton wasn’t just in passing lanes, but he made life difficult for Pedulla. The Hokies point guard never got into a flow offensively as he scored just three points in the first half, and his 10 second half points came on 3-for-10 shooting. 

“He’s at the point of attack of a lot,” explained Shrewsberry. “I thought Markus had really active hands. We got a bunch of deflections early in the game, but we didn’t get the ball. In the second half, we got those deflections and came up with it. I thought that really spurred us.

“A lot of that was him. Pedulla is one of the toughest covers in this league and he guarded him for much of the game until he got a couple of fouls late, and we switched it. He did a good job at keeping in front and having active hands.” 

The Mishawaka native also continues to show growth in taking care of the ball. As Burton said, the ACC knows he can score, but eliminating turnovers has been a point of emphasis for the freshman, which was highlighted by just one turnover on Saturday and Notre Dame had just eight for the game. 

“He scored it early, got in the paint, got some pull-up jumpers and I thought in the second half he really controlled getting around the outside shoulder and finding different guys,” said Shrewsberry. “Kicking to the corners, wings. We talked about it a lot. We talked about our ball movement as a group and how we needed to improve. 

“We’ve been slowly and surely hammering away at it. You see small signs of it, which is really encouraging.” 

KEEP SHOWING UP
Virginia Tech started hot on Saturday as they hit 5-of-6 shots from behind the arc to start the game. Yet, Notre Dame didn’t fold as they let dialed in at the end of the first half and the start of the final 20 minutes with a key 14-0 run. 

And yes, it started with defense. 

“In the first half, we were a step behind in our rotations and a little bit at the point of attack defensively,” explained Shrewsberry. “They were getting deep in the paint and kind of iso-ing us a little bit. I thought we buckled down and got a little bit better at the end. That was a good end for us to close it and get close and give yourself some hope. 

“We came out in the second half and we changed what we needed to. We got some stops and scored some baskets. We got a little bit of juice and that’s what we needed.” 

“That was one of the things we struggled with early in the season, coming out of halftime and being great,” said Njie. “Everybody was more focused during halftime. We knew what we were supposed to do, but we knew they went on a run and knew our run was going to come, too. Basketball is a game of runs. We kept fighting and kept digging. It showed.” 

Notre Dame kept fighting. 

It’s what this group has done over the last month despite not being rewarded with a win. Some teams would have folded, but it’s clear Notre Dame remained hungry as the Irish didn’t let an 11-0 run in the first half determine the outcome. 

“We’re fighters,” stated Njie. “I think that’s who we are as people. We never give up. We’re going to keep showing up every single day. That’s our motto this year. Keep showing up every single day no matter what it looks like. Whether we lose or win, we’re always showing up and doing what we’re supposed to do.” 

That said, make no mistake, Notre Dame earning a much-needed win isn’t lost on the program. 

“It means a lot,” said Burton. “We haven’t won since January. Us showing up every single day, busting our butts in practice, getting yelled out by Coach Shrews, working hard every single day just to get the winning feeling. I feel like today, we showed the fans that we kept fighting and we’re still here. It means a lot for us to see all the fans filling up the seats and they still believe in us knowing we’re still a super young team and we’re learning. It felt good today.” 

UP NEXT
Notre Dame will host Georgia Tech (10-14, 3-10) for a Wednesday night tip at 7:00 PM ET on ACC Network. 

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