Better effort, same hoops result for Notre Dame vs. No. 4 Virginia
Something about home games against one of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s elite pushes Notre Dame back on its collective heels.
Something about road games against one of the ACC’s elite gets Notre Dame’s collective attention.
For the second time in as many seasons. Notre Dame gave No. 4 Virginia all it could handle at John Paul Jones Arena. But for the second time in as many seasons, Notre Dame fell short Saturday of a massive upset.
Kyle Guy made four free throws in the final 23 seconds to help Virginia (22-2; 10-2) hold off Notre Dame (13-12; 3-9), 60-54.
“That’s about as good as we’ve got,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “I’m proud of our group. We competed and stuck our nose in there. For our developing group, that’s kind of what I wanted to see today.”
Notre Dame’s last two games at Virginia have been decided by five and six points. In their last two games at Purcell Pavilion, the Irish have lost by 17 and 27.
Junior T.J. Gibbs led Notre Dame with 17 points, 10 coming in the first 9:45. Power forward John Mooney added 11 points and 15 rebounds for his league-leading 16th double double.
The win allowed Virginia coach Tony Bennett to become the winningest coach in school history in ACC play. It was Bennett’s 127th league win. Former Cavaliers coach Terry Holland had 126.
The loss pushed Notre Dame to 0-6 against ranked teams this season. The Irish have lost their last 13 to ranked teams since their last win early last season against then-No. 6 Wichita State. A win would have been Notre Dame’s first on the road in league play against a top-five team since 2011 when it beat then-No. 2 Pittsburgh.
The Irish made it interesting.
A Nate Laszewski bucket off a Virginia turnover brought Notre Dame within two, 54-52, with 34 seconds remaining. Virginia stayed just ahead of Notre Dame thanks to Guy’s foul shooting. He finished with 22 points.
“He’s such a winner,” Brey said.
There were stretches Saturday where Notre Dame’s defense did to Virginia what Virginia usually does to just about everybody. Mixing man with a lot of zone, the Irish held the Cavaliers to 34.8 shooting, 37.5 on their home floor. Not many teams have done what the Irish did defensively.
“We defended well; we really guarded them,” Brey said. “We’re certainly offensively challenged. We’re going to have to guard. We dug in.
“I’m thrilled with our defense. Our ‘d’ kept us in the thing.”
Down six in the closing minute, Notre Dame got open looks from 3 from Gibbs and Laszewski. One bucket would have made it a one-possession game. Neither fell.
Virginia led for nearly 35 minutes Saturday after leading for all but 40 seconds when the teams met last month in South Bend.
Notre Dame trailed by as many as eight in the first half and went to the locker room at intermission down 29-25. This despite going more than seven minutes without a point and missing nine-straight shots. The Irish got good halves from Gibbs (10 points) and D.J. Harvey (10). Mooney was the only other guy in a blue and gold uniform to score. He had two free throws and a 3.
Subtract Gibbs, Harvey and Mooney from the first half and the rest of the Irish combined to shoot0-for-8 from the field for zero points. The Irish had more turnovers (five) than assists (four) in the opening 20 minutes.
No Irish other than those three scored until 15:58 remained when Prentiss Hubb pushed the pace on a break, then circled back to the perimeter and knocked in a 3 to get Notre Dame within four, 34-30.
The Irish made only two of their first nine shots to start the second half.
Brey said going into Saturday that he needed to see his team compete a little harder than they did the first time the teams met Jan. 26 in South Bend. In a game where Notre Dame never led, the Irish got to within 12 points early in the second half before the Cavaliers shifted into another gear. One that Notre Dame couldn’t match.
The Irish trailed by as many as 30 in a 27-point loss. It was the most lopsided loss at home under Brey. It was one of the few times this season, Brey said last week, where he felt his team’s spirit was shattered.
“We were embarrassed, all of us, how they kind of took our spirit from us,” Brey said Saturday of that loss. “They do that to a lot of people. We just kind of hung our head. We’ve got high-character kids. They wanted to bounce back today and I thought they did.”
Notre Dame was better almost from the jump on Saturday. Nik Djogo hustled down an Irish miss on their first possession, which led to a Gibbs bucket.
Gibbs scored Notre Dame’s first 10 points, then didn’t score again the rest of the first half. Someone else besides Gibbs finally scored when Harvey banked in a leaner from the wing with 6:41 remaining. It was a quick and relatively inefficient first half for both teams. The under-12 media timeout finally arrived with 7:59 remaining. The teams returned to play all of 13 seconds before having to handle the under-eight minute timeout.
Notre Dame shot 34.6 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from 3 in the first half. Virginia wasn’t much better at 37.9 and 33.3. The Irish opened in man on their first defensive possession before relying mostly on a 2/3 zone look the rest of the half.
Notre Dame returns to action Tuesday at home against Wake Forest, which lost by 38 points at home to North Carolina.
“They’re getting there, man,” Brey said of his squad. “I like who we are. I’d love to see us finish with this same grit.”
NOTRE DAME (13-12): Mooney 4-13 2-2 11, Gibbs 6-14 2-2 17, Djogo 0-1 0-0 0, Hubb 3-8 0-0 7, Harvey 4-8 0-0 10, Durham 0-2 0-0 0, Laszewski 2-7 4-4 9, Goodwin 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 19-55 8-8 54.<
VIRGINIA (22-2): Salt 1-1 0-0 2, Guy 7-15 4-4 22, Hunter 6-11 6-7 20, Clark 0-4 0-0 0, Jerome 2-9 2-2 8, Diakite 2-5 1-2 5, Key 1-7 1-2 3, Huff 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-52 14-17 60.<
Halftime—Virginia 29-25. 3-Point Goals—Notre Dame 8-30 (Gibbs 3-8, Harvey 2-6, Hubb 1-4, Laszewski 1-5, Mooney 1-6, Goodwin 0-1), Virginia 8-23 (Guy 4-10, Hunter 2-3, Jerome 2-3, Key 0-3, Clark 0-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Notre Dame 31 (Mooney 15), Virginia 35 (Hunter 10). Assists—Notre Dame 8 (Gibbs 3), Virginia 12 (Guy, Jerome 3). Total Fouls—Notre Dame 13, Virginia 6. A—13,448 (14,593).