Notre Dame Loses ACC Opener At No. 10 Virginia Tech, 81-66
An 11-point underdog at No. 10 Virginia Tech, Notre Dame’s 4-0 record at the Cassell Coliseum was snapped with an 81-66 defeat to open the Atlantic Coast Conference season.
The Irish fell to 10-4 overall and 0-1 league play while the Hokies are now 12-1 overall and 1-0 in the ACC. Box score.
Junior guard T.J. Gibbs paced the Irish with 19 points, highlighted by 5 of 10 shooting from three-point range. Sophomore wing D.J. Harvey tallied 16 points to go with seven rebounds, while junior forward John Mooney almost had another double-double with 10 rebounds and nine points.
Off the bench, freshman forward Nate Laszewski contributed 14 points, converting four of his last five treys after missing his first three. He sat out the last few minutes after injuring his right knee that head coach Mike Brey said afterwards was not anything more than knocking knees with someone else.
Virginia Tech entered the contest ranked No. 2 nationally in three-point field-goal percentage (.441) but might move up to No. 1 after converting 11 of 18 (.611) against the Irish. The Hokies were .600 overall from the floor (33 of 55) because the versatile and veteran unit also was effective down low, outscoring Notre Dame 34-14 in the paint.
With junior wing Nik Djogo not making the trip while battling tonsillitis, Notre Dame entered the game with only seven available scholarship players. It stayed competitive while trailing only 30-28 at halftime and remaining within striking distance early in the second half.
After falling behind 28-15 while converting only seven of their first 20 field goal attempts, the Fighting Irish used consecutive three-pointers by freshmen Prentiss Hubb and Laszewski plus Gibbs to finish the half on a 13-2 run after seeing the Hokies go on a 15-2 streak prior to it.
Notre Dame’s grit was shown in those first 20 minutes by outrebounding the Hokies 21-9, with eight of the Irish boards coming on offense, and it resulted in a 7-0 advantage in second-chance points.
Led by forward Kerry Blackshear Jr.'s (21 points) power inside, Virginia Tech converted three straight basket-and-one opportunities to build the advantage back to 39-29 at the start of the second half. Once again Notre Dame’s three-point shooting — two by Laszewski and one by Gibbs — pulled Notre Dame within one (43-42), but Virginia Tech’s Ahmed Hill answered with consecutive treys to build the edge back to 49-42. Hill and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, a projected first-round NBA pick, each converted 7 of 8 field-goal attempts. Off the bench, Ty Outlaw drilled 4 of 7 beyond the arc.
The Irish did not come within five points thereafter but were within 60-53 with about seven minutes left before the Hokies built their biggest lead of the game to 71-53 on an 11-0 run, led by a barrage of threes by Blackshear and Outlaw. Four of Notre Dame's seven scholarship players made their ACC debut on the road versus a top-10 team, so overall Brey was not disappointed with the effort.
"Every time they tried to get away from us, for the most part we made a run," Brey told the Notre Dame Basketball Network's Zach Hillesland. "We just couldn't make one last run. I'm certainly very impressed with Virginia Tech. They're really skilled, they're really old and they can stretch you and shoot it."
Notre Dame hosts Syracuse Saturday at noon.