No answers for Notre Dame men against Virginia again

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Names change. So do game locations. And seasons.

But something that doesn’t is Virginia owning Notre Dame in Atlantic Coast Conference play.

Happened the first four times the teams met as ACC men's basketball colleagues. Four games, and none were really close.

Happened again Tuesday at sold-out Purcell Pavilion in front an Irish fan base that was ready to see something new. The Irish were confident that they could deliver it.

But in a game where everything was expected to change for No. 14 Notre Dame against No. 12 Virginia, nothing did. It all stayed the same.

Veteran guard London Perrantes hit seemingly every big shot at every big moment while the Irish could muster zero rhythm on either end in a 71-54 loss at Purcell Pavilion.

Perrantes, who wasn’t feeling well, finished with a game-high 22 points.

Losers at home for the first time this season after 12 wins, Notre Dame falls to 17-4, 6-2 in the ACC. Winners of its last five, Virginia improves to 16-3, 6-2.

Notre Dame is 1-4 against ranked teams this season. Its first three loss — to No. 1 Villanova, No. 20 Purdue and No. 6 Florida State were by a combined 16 points.

Bonzie Colson led the Irish with 20 points. The leading rebounder in the league coming in at 10.9 coming in, Colson managed only three rebounds — none in the first half.

“They hit us early,” Colson said. “They just outplayed us. It was a great team. It was a big reality check.”

Where did this one get away from the Irish? Where do you start?

A seventh league win seemed within reach for Notre Dame, despite scoring a season-low 26 points in the first half. The Irish trailed by only one after being down by as many as seven. But then it all slipped slowly away.

On both ends.

Again.

On the offensive end, where Notre Dame has historically been good against every league team sans one — the one that was in town Tuesday — it just couldn’t make shots. From seemingly any spot. Notre Dame shot 39.1 percent from the field, and an anemic 12.5 percent from 3 in the second half.

“We just didn’t make enough of those,” said senior captain Steve Vasturia. “We gotta be better. They took it to us.”

Fellow senior captain V.J. Beachem, who was feeling really good about his game after going for a career-high 30 points in Saturday’s win over Syracuse, had a night to forget. As good as Beachem was on that day, he wasn’t good Tuesday night.

Beachem went scoreless in the first half and finished with three points on 1-of-10 from the field, 0-for-5 from 3.

“V.J. had great looks,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “He just missed them. We gotta make those. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”

Consecutive offensive possessions back when the game might have been there for the taking underscored that this wasn’t going to go the home team’s way.

Down five with under seven minutes remaining, Notre Dame had a chance to get the joint jumping with a pair of offensive possessions. But Beachem rushed a 3 that had no chance, and the Cavaliers were back running down the other direction. But that was OK, because Rex Pflueger dug out a steal and was headed back the way everyone had just come from with what looked like an easy layup.

Pflueger was preoccupied by a quickly closing Cavalier defender and missed his chance.

With it, seemingly went the air out of the building.

“We,” Brey said, “were a little frustrated.”

As tough as it was for the Irish on that end, their defense let them down. Big-time. Confident that it could compete with the Cavaliers because of its ability to lock in and get stops, the Irish never did.

Notre Dame allowed 44 points in a second half that saw Virginia shoot 48.1 percent from the field and 60 percent from 3.

How bad did it get? It wasn’t enough that Perrantes was tossing in big shots. Seldom-used guard Ty Jerome, who arrived averaging 2.1 points, left with a season-high eight, all in the second half.

“Really happy for Ty,” Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett said. “To get that from Ty was significant. He’s always ready.”

Before anyone knew it, the Irish were down deep by double digits. It wouldn’t get any better.

“Doing those little things is something you need to do to win,” Vasturia said.

The Irish were out-rebounded 38-22. Ten Cavalier offensive rebounds led to 15 second-chance points. Many of those were back-breakers. Crushers.

“We always try to be a good position-defender team,” Bennett said. “They do shoot a lot of 3s. They missed some open ones.”

Notre Dame entered Tuesday’s game having lost nine straight games to Virginia, dating back to its lone win way back in 1981, when the Cavaliers were ranked No. 1 with a guy named Ralph Sampson manning the middle. Virginia didn’t need Sampson on this night.

With Notre Dame down one at the break, Brey returned looking for something, really anything, that might get the Irish into some sort of flow. On both ends. In came Pflueger for Martinas Geben less than a minute into the final 20. Then back came Geben for Pflueger. Then T.J. Gibbs. Then a switch from man defense to a 2-3 zone.

Nothing really worked, in part because there was no answer for Perrantes. His heat-check 3 gave the Cavaliers their largest lead at eight with 9:21 left.

The Irish led for all of 2:58 Tuesday and spent the rest of the time scrambling to stay afloat.

Didn’t happen.

Again.

VIRGINIA (16-3): Isaiah Wilkins 2-6 9-10 13, Jack Salt 1-3 0-0 2, Marial Shayok 5-10 0-0 10, London Perrantes 7-13 3-4 22, Devon Hall 5-9 0-0 11, Jarred Reuter 0-0 0-0 0, Mamadi Diakite 0-0 0-0 0, Ty Jerome 3-4 0-0 8, Darius Thompson 0-2 0-0 0, Kyle Guy 2-7 0-0 5. Totals 25-54 12-14 71.

NOTRE DAME (17-4): V.J. Beachem 1-10 1-1 3, Martinas Geben 0-1 0-0 0, Bonzie Colson 8-11 4-7 20, Steve Vasturia 4-10 4-4 14, Matt Farrell 3-6 1-3 8, Austin Torres 0-0 0-0 0, John Mooney 0-0 0-0 0, Matt Ryan 1-3 0-0 2, Elijah Burns 0-0 0-0 0, Rex Pflueger 2-5 0-0 4, T.J. Gibbs 1-2 1-2 3. Totals 20-48 11-17 54.

Halftime-Virginia 27-26. 3-Point Goals-Virginia 9-19 (Perrantes 5-8, Jerome 2-3, Hall 1-3, Guy 1-4, Thompson 0-1), Notre Dame 3-18 (Vasturia 2-5, Farrell 1-3, Pflueger 0-1, Ryan 0-2, Colson 0-2, Beachem 0-5). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Virginia 35 (Wilkins, Hall 9), Notre Dame 17 (Vasturia 5). Assists-Virginia 13 (Thompson 5), Notre Dame 9 (Farrell 5). Total Fouls-Virginia 17, Notre Dame 10. A-9,149 (9,149).

tnoie@ndinsider.com

(574) 235-6153

@tnoieNDI

Notre Dame starters V.J. Beachem (3), Martinas Geben (23), Matt Farrell (5), Steve Vasturia (32) and Bonzie Colson (35) watch the end of another lopsided loss to No. 12 Virginia at Purcell Pavilion. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)