No answer for Notre Dame men's basketball against Virginia

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Hovering on the outskirts of in-game huddles is a place that Notre Dame senior power forward Zach Auguste hasn’t seen since his days as an underclassman when he was just another kid hoping to help.

But with each passing timeout during the second half of Saturday’s Atlantic Coast Conference opener against No. 5 Virginia, there was Auguste, standing stone silent on the outside of everything Irish looking in before offering a quick clap of his hands and taking a seat back on the bench for a few more minutes.

This was a matchup that Auguste insisted he was prepared to play, a battle in the low post that he was ready to dominate. But Auguste and his teammates came up empty on almost every front.

Unable to protect the paint, to give his team a much-needed defensive lift, to rebound with the authority that he had for much of the year, Auguste drifted through an ineffective evening as Notre Dame (9-4) dropped its ACC opener, 77-66, at sold-out John Paul Jones Arena.

Winners of 11 straight overall and nine straight against Notre Dame, Virginia moved to 12-1, 1-0.

“Today was kind of men among boys,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “Anytime we tried to make a little bit of a run and gain some hope, they kind of squelched it like a veteran, mature group.”

This one, as many league games will go, was about toughness. Interior toughness. Mental toughness. About protecting the rim toughness and battling for loose balls toughness. About limiting a team as efficient as Virginia to one-and-done possessions. But Notre Dame didn't.

That helped Virginia to shoot 57.1 percent from the field, finish with 38 points in the paint and win the rebounding battle, 30-25.

“We couldn’t really dig it out in the paint,” Brey said. “They beat us up around there. It’s an area where we’re going to have to be tougher or it’s going to be a long winter.”

Auguste came into conference play with eight double-doubles for points and rebounds, with designs on yet another one. After finishing with season lows for points (one), rebounds (two) and minutes (22), this one, Auguste said, is on him.

“I just didn’t come out prepared,” he said. “I let my team down. I wasn’t playing like a man out there.”

Why not?

“I don’t know,” Auguste said. “Things just weren’t going my way out there. I just didn’t give enough. I owe my team a lot more.”

Virginia power forwards Anthony Gill and Mike Tobey tag-teamed for 36 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks.

“They are really good, man” Brey said. “They’re men.”

The trio of Auguste and Bonzie Colson and Austin Torres combined for 17 points and 11 rebounds. The only reason that Auguste returned for the final five minutes was that Torres fouled out. Colson battled his way to 14 points and eight rebounds, but a good chunk of that was secured when the game was well out of reach.

“It was embarrassing with how we played,” Colson said. “We’ve gotta play with more heart. It was a huge reality check.”

The Irish trailed for the final 34-plus minutes, never got back within single digits the final 24-plus minutes and finished with a season low for points. They had lost their previous three games by a total of 10 points.

This one was by 11, but felt more like triple that. Other than an early four-point lead when it was 8-4, the Irish never were really in it.

Again.

Virginia is the one team that Notre Dame has had absolutely no answer for its first two years in the ACC. The Irish entered Saturday’s game 0-3 against the Cavaliers as conference colleagues. 

The Irish then fell into a 13-point hole barely midway through a first half.

It was Gill and Tobey and Malcolm Brogdon and just about anyone else who wanted to contribute. The Cavaliers attacked in waves. The Irish wilted.

“Balance is this team,” said Virginia coach Tony Bennett. “We’ve been pretty efficient this year.”

The Irish opened in a 2-3 zone in the second half, which the Cavaliers promptly sliced up with a pair of Brogdon 3-pointers. Man didn’t work well in the first half. Zone wasn’t going to do the trick in the second. Following Brogdon’s second 3, the Irish turned to Brey on the bench as if to say, "Now what?"

Yet Notre Dame scored 42 points in the second half and got within 11 late. Overall, the Irish shot 48.2 percent against a team that has been the league’s gold standard defensively.

“It was having more confidence and going for it, nothing to lose,” said junior guard Demetrius Jackson. “We just kind of went for it.”

Too late.

NOTRE DAME (9-4): Austin Torres 1-2 0-0 2, V.J. Beachem 5-8 0-1 10, Matt Ryan 3-6 0-0 7, Matt Farrell 0-0 0-0 0, Demetrius Jackson 7-17 0-0 18, Austin Burgett 0-0 0-0 0, Zach Auguste 0-2 1-2 1, Steve Vasturia 6-11 0-0 14, Bonzie Colson 5-10 4-4 14. Totals 27-56 5-7 66.

VIRGINIA (12-1): Devon Hall 2-4 0-0 5, Marial Shayok 0-0 0-0 0, Mike Tobey 5-9 5-5 15, Anthony Gill 7-10 7-11 21, Malcolm Brogdon 9-14 4-6 24, Isaiah Wilkins 1-3 0-0 2, London Perrantes 1-5 0-0 3, Darius Thompson 3-4 1-2 7. Totals 28-49 17-24 77.

Halftime-Virginia 36-24. 3-Point Goals-Notre Dame 7-22 (Jackson 4-10, Vasturia 2-4, Ryan 1-4, Colson 0-1, Beachem 0-3), Virginia 4-11 (Brogdon 2-5, Hall 1-2, Perrantes 1-3, Thompson 0-1). Fouled Out-Torres. Rebounds-Notre Dame 25 (Colson 8), Virginia 30 (Gill, Tobey 6). Assists-Notre Dame 8 (Jackson 6), Virginia 17 (Perrantes 5). Total Fouls-Notre Dame 17, Virginia 12. A-14,389.

tnoie@ndinsider.com | (574) 235-6153 | @tnoieNDI

Notre Dame guard Steve Vasturia (32) shoots over Virginia forward Isaiah Wilkins (21) during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)
Notre Dame forward Zach Auguste (30) shoots over Virginia center Mike Tobey (10) during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Shurtleff)