Virginia Tech Continues Notre Dame Woes With 67-59 Win
For the first time since March 2014, the Notre Dame men's basketball program (13-14, 3-11) is under .500 following a 67-59 loss to No. 20 Virginia Tech (21-6, 10-5) at Purcell Pavilion on Saturday afternoon.
Another woeful shooting performance by the Fighting Irish — 19 of 58 (32.8 percent) and 6 of 26 from three (23.1 percent) — was compounded by Virginia Tech’s 49-27 domination on the backboards, including an 18-9 advantage on offense.
The Hokies didn’t shoot it much better while finishing 19 of 52 (36.5 percent) and 5 of 18 from three (27.8 percent), including 0 of 6 in the second half, but the physical presence of 6-10, 250-pound Kerry Blackshear (22 points, 14 rebounds, three assists) provided a crucial difference throughout the contest for the more veteran outfit that did not have senior guard Justin Robinson (14.4 points per game) play for the seventh straight game this month because of a foot injury.
Junior forward John Mooney posted his ACC high 17th double double of the year with 12 points and 10 rebounds, but had the lowest plus-minus rating (minus-14) for the Irish while playing 25 minutes. Classmate T.J. Gibbs paced the Irish 18 points, but was 5 of 17 from the floor and 3 of 10 beyond the arc. Freshman point guard Prentiss Hubb had a solid floor game with seven assists and only one turnover in 36:18, but was 1 of 8 shooting from the field and 0 of 5 from long range.
Freshman 6-10 forward Nate Laszewski supplied quality minutes off the bench with 12 points in 20 minutes but was limited to one rebound.
Blue & Gold Illustrated recaps the contest half-by-half.
Notre Dame missed its first six field-goal attempts through the first five minutes while falling behind 5-0, and would never find itself ahead or tied after the tip-off.
By the 12-minute mark it was 14-4, with the Hokies converting 4 of 6 from three-point range while the Irish were 1 of 10 overall (0 of 4 from three). The largest first half lead was extended to 18-7, but Laszewski helped the Irish pull within 25-21 with two free throws and a trey.
Notre Dame had several opportunities to cut into that four-point deficit, but four missed baskets — including a missed dunk by D.J. Harvey on an alley-oop feed from Gibbs — and a turnover kept them from making a run or even potentially taking the lead. Virginia Tech then finally responded with a three-pointer by Isaiah Wilkins plus two free throws to expand its advantage to 30-21. Two free throws by junior center Juwan Durham with 3.9 seconds remaining closed the Hokies lead to 30-23 at the intermission.
Virginia Tech finished the first half 10 of 26 (38.5 percent) shooting, but did convert 5 of 12 beyond the arc. It also out-rebounded Notre Dame 23-13, including 8-4 on offense.
Notre Dame was 6 of 25 from the floor (24 percent), and 2 of 12 from three-point range (16.7 percent). Helping keep it in the contest was generating 11 turnovers, including three steals by Gibbs.
Both teams opened by converting only one of their first five field-goal attempts. The Irish committed their sixth foul at the 12:54 mark and free throws by the Hokies pushed the lead to 39-29 before a Gibbs three-pointer (he missed the free throw that would have completed the four-point play) and a drive-and-score by Laszewski made it 39-34.
Virginia Tech was in the bonus with 8:39 remaining, at which point they pushed their cushion back to 45-36. While the Notre Dame shooting maladies continued, the Hokies first matched their largest lead of the contest at 47-36 by playing volleyball on the backboards with four offensive rebounds, and then Wabissa Bede's two free throws gave them the game's biggest lead, 49-36, with 6:45 left.
A three by Harvey at the 3:44 mark pulled Notre Dame back within single digits at 52-43, and then a Gibbs three to make it 52-46 helped the home audience finally get into the game, but the Irish would not be able to draw closer. Meanwhile, four straight free throws by Blackshear kept the Irish at arm’s length.
With no choice but to foul in the final minute, Notre Dame kept sending the Hokies to the line. Three misses at the charity stripe by Virginia Tech and a three by Laszewski with 14.5 seconds left pulled the Irish within 63-57, but four more free throws by Virginia Tech resulted in the 67-59 final.