Notre Dame Basketball

Irish Fall In Blacksburg 81-66

January 1, 2019
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Notre Dame (10-4, 0-1) succumbed to Virginia Tech’s (12-1, 1-1) hot shooting and was defeated by the Hokies, 81-66 in the first game of 2019 and the opening game of ACC conference play. 

Virginia Tech shot 71 percent from the field in the second half and 60 percent in the game. The Hokies also hit 11 of their 18 three-pointers in the game.

“They shot 60%,” stated Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey. “We played a little bit of zone and that helped us in the first half. I don’t feel we could have in the second half. For the most part, you’re trying to give up 2s and hang in there to see if you can score enough to hang with them. 

“That kind of worked and then they made some big ones. They have the capability of making 20 threes and you’re going to lose by 35.” 

After Notre Dame cut Virginia Tech’s lead to one with 14:47 left in the game, the Hokies took off. Ahmed Hill hit back-to-back three-pointers after Nate Laszewski’s three-pointer that cut the lead to just one. Hill sparked an 11-3 run to extend their lead to 13, 60-47 with nine minutes to play in the game. Virginia Tech kept their foot on the gas-peddle and every time Notre Dame had momentum, the Hokies countered it with one of their own. 

“I’m so impressed with Virginia Tech,” Brey said. “They are old and know who they are. They spread you out and make shots. They are really, really good. I’m proud of our group. We’re a youth movement group and played against some men today.

“We gave ourselves a chance a couple of times but couldn’t get over the hump on the road against a really good team. They made every big shot any time we got within striking distance.” 

The Hokies came out of the second half on fire and converted three consecutive three-point plays on their first three possessions. The Irish converted a free throw, but Virginia Tech started strong with a 9-1 run to start the second half. They extended their lead to 39-29, just two minutes into the half. Juwan Durham picked up his third and fourth foul quickly on back-to-back possessions.

“He got in foul trouble and we didn’t get as much out of him,” Brey said of Durham. “We’re going to need him to do stuff for us. Only 14 minutes for him tonight.”

Notre Dame was able to gain their footing and started to chip away into the double-digit lead with four quick points by TJ Gibbs, 39-33. Virginia Tech countered with a Justin Robinson layup, but the Irish went on a 9-2 run to cut the lead to just one, 43-42 after three buckets from behind, two from Nate Laszewski and one by Gibbs. 

Notre Dame out-rebounded Virginia Tech 33-25, but only shot 41 percent from the field. The Irish’s tough shooting day trended to the free throw line as well, they only hit seven of their 13 free throws. 

Gibbs led all scorers with 19 points and DJ Harvey and Laszewski also chipped in double-digit scoring with 16 and 14 points respectively. 

Kerry Blackshear led all Virginia Tech scorers with 21 points. Blackshear also added seven rebounds. Hill and Nickeil Alexander-Walker also added 17 points each.

To end the first half, Notre Dame went on a 13-2 run over the last four and a half minutes of the first half to cut Virginia Tech’s lead to just two points going into halftime, 30-28. The run was sparked by a Prentiss Hubb three-pointer with 4:23 left in the first half. This bucket was countered by a Blackshear Jr. fade-away jumper to extend their lead to 12 points with 4:01 left in the opening half.

However, it was Virginia Tech’s last bucket of the first half, and they went scoreless for the last four minutes of play. Laszewski countered Blackshear’s bucket with a 3-pointer after a steal by John Mooney. This brought the Irish within single digits of the Hokies, 30-21. Laszewski also ended the run with 32 seconds left in the half with a mid-range jumper, 30-28. 

To open the game it was back-and-forth until Virginia Tech opened their lead with a 15-2 run sparked by a Blackshear layup with just under 12 minutes to play in the half. The run lasted a full eight minutes, until Hubb’s three-pointer to swing momentum in favor of the Irish. Virginia Tech’s biggest lead was 13 with 5:26 left in the first half. 

Notre Dame shot 41 percent from the field in the first half. The Irish out-rebounded the Hokies 21-9, including eight offensive rebounds which deemed crucial in their comeback. Harvey led the way with 10 points for Notre Dame on four-of-seven shooting from the field.  Durham was vicious on the defensive end and added four first-half blocks. Three came on the first five Virginia Tech possessions.

Virginia Tech shot 48 percent from the field in the first half but was out-rebounded by 12 in the first half. Walker led the Hokies with 10 points and Blackshear added eight points and three rebounds.

Notre Dame returns to Purcell Pavilion on Saturday to face Syracuse at Noon.

Irish Sports Daily
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