Tony Bennett still has Mike Brey’s number, and the No. 14 Notre Dame basketball team was humbled Tuesday night by No. 12 Virginia at Purcell Pavilion.
The Cavaliers (16-3, 6-2 ACC) remain the only team the Irish have yet to beat since joining the league, losing all five matchups.
“Tonight was a thorough beating,” said Brey, who is now 0-5 all time against the Virginia head coach.
Tuesday was perhaps the most ugly, with Virginia’s pack-line defense holding Notre Dame to a season-low point total and its second-lowest field goal percentage (41.7).
“They imposed their will on us,” Brey said. “Some of the looks we had in the first half from the three-point line were good ones. You’ve got to make those if you’re going to hang around, and you’ve got to make some shots over the top and we couldn’t.”
The Irish (17-4, 6-2) shot just 3 of 18 (16.7 percent) from behind the arc, their fewest makes since the season opener against Bryant.
Notre Dame trailed 27-26 at the half and looked poised to pull off the upset over the slightly favored Cavs. It was 54-49 with 6:52 remaining in the second half when Virginia went on a 17-5 run to close the game.
Every time Notre Dame got it close, the Cavaliers answered. More often than not it was senior guard London Perrantes or freshman guard Ty Jerome hitting the big shot. Perrantes finished with a game-high 22 points, while Jerome scored eight points on 3-of-4 shooting off the bench.
“We were right there most of the game, we just weren’t able to get some of the timely stops that we’re used to getting and knocking down some of the open shots we’re used to knocking down,” senior wing V.J. Beachem said.
Virginia outrebounded Notre Dame 38-22 and scored 15 second-chance points en route to the road victory. It was the fewest rebounds Notre Dame has recorded in a game this season.
Brey went to his four-guard lineup for much of the second half, sacrificing size and rebounding for a potential offensive spark.
“They took advantage of us on the backboard,” Brey said.
Beachem, coming off a career-high 30 points against Syracuse on Saturday, went just 1 of 10 from the field and had three points. He had plenty of good looks that simply did not fall.
Junior forward Bonzie Colson led Notre Dame with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting. Senior guard Steve Vasturia was the only other Irish player in double figures, contributing 14 points.
Junior point guard Matt Farrell, who had risen to the occasion in Notre Dame’s previous marquee matchups this season, struggled Tuesday. He finished with eight points and five assists, but look frustrated by the Cavaliers’ tight defense.
“Getting shots wasn’t the problem, we didn’t make enough,” Vasturia said.
And even with the Cavaliers clicking on both ends — shooting 46.3 percent for the game and hitting 6 of 10 three-pointers in the second half — they got even more help on 50-50 balls.
It seemed every loose ball went Virginia’s way. It felt that way to Brey as well, who had a sense that karma wasn’t on Notre Dame’s side against the scrappy Cavaliers.
“When that happens like the fourth time,” Brey said, “I don’t like the feel of the night.”
Irish Get Back To Work
“Disappointing, but we’ve got to move quick to the next one,” Brey said.
That was Irish coach’s message to his team following Tuesday’s beating, a loss that bumps Notre Dame out of a first-place tie in the ACC.
Notre Dame now sets its sights on a Saturday matchup at Georgia Tech, followed by a quick turnaround for a Monday home game against Duke.
“We’ll move on pretty quick,” Brey said. “… I have a lot of confidence in our leadership and where we’re at in the big picture of things. We’re thrilled we’re 6-2 in this league.
“We’ve been living pretty good. You’re 6-1 and you’re winning games, and the intensity in your practices because of human nature maybe isn’t as great as it needs to be.”
Brey said Notre Dame will have an off day Wednesday to rest, then get back to work with two “tough” practices Thursday and Friday. The 17th-year coach is looking forward to getting back into a practice rhythm heading into the weekend.
“It’s the first time we’ve had our butts kicked, which is good,” Brey said. “It gets your attention, and it sets you up for really being able to have a heck of a practice Thursday.”
Vasturia, who has never beat Virginia, said blaming the losses on a poor on-paper matchup with the Cavaliers can’t be an excuse.
“We have to be better, and they’re a really good team,” Vasturia said. “We come into games and we want to compete, we want to win. We can learn from this. It’s something that we weren’t going to breeze through the ACC, they took it to us.
“Luckily it’s one game and we’ve got to bounce back, and we’ve got another tough one on Saturday.”