Notre Dame falls a shot short in overtime loss at Virginia

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — It had a shot at a massive league road win the end of regulation and again at the end of overtime.

Neither look fell before another heartbreaker as Notre Dame lost, 50-49, to Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena. The Irish are 0-5 lifetime at JPJ.

A four-game win streak snapped, Notre Dame is 15-9, 6-7 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia is 16-7, 8-5. A win Tuesday would've moved Notre Dame into a three-way tie for fourth place with North Carolina State and Syracuse. Instead, the Irish are now in a three-way tie for seventh.

"God, I’m sick for our guys," said Irish coach Mike Brey. "We played our hearts out. I’m disappointed for us. I think we’re playing pretty well. It’s disappointing we couldn’t get it.

"It's not going to be easy sledding, but I love our group."

Notre Dame had not lost since the Jan. 25 setback at No. 8 Florida State. Tuesday was a season low for points for the Irish, who managed one basket — a Prentiss Hubb jumper — in overtime. The Cavaliers scored three points the final five minutes.

The Irish missed their last four shots and went scoreless the final 3:31. Still, they had a chance at the win. With the ball and 18.2 seconds left, Hubb rushed the ball up the floor, probed through the lane and found Rex Pflueger in the corner in front of the Irish bench. Pflueger's 3 rattled around and bounced out.

"You really aren’t going to design something against them and get it," Brey said of the final sequence. "You gotta almost play and get the open look. I love that Hubb didn’t shoot a flyer and made the extra pass. We almost gotta live with that. You gotta be a basketball player."

John Mooney delivered his fifth straight double double for points and rebounds with 11 and 14. It was his 20th this season and 41st of his career. Hubb led the Irish with 12 points.

Notre Dame shot 32.8 percent from the field, 23.1 percent from 3. Virginia shot 37.3 percent and 25.0.

Virginia’s nowhere near the outfit that won the school’s first national championship last spring, but the Cavaliers still guard. And guard. And guard. It’s often a wrestling match and a trip to the dentist and a migraine all rolled into one. The Cavaliers came into the contest ranked last in the league in scoring offense (56.7 ppg.) but first for scoring defense (51.7).

"They’re really hard to score against," Brey said. "We had a couple possessions down the stretch where they just kind of shut us down. They’re probably more accustom to the rock fights than us."

The Irish have lost their last six league games by a combined 14 points. They've dropped each of their last two on the road by one point.

Notre Dame also had the last possession of regulation with 20.1 seconds remaining after Mamadi Diakite tied it at 47 with 25.1 seconds remaining. With fouls to give, Virginia fouled three times. That left Notre Dame one chance with three seconds left but Mooney's look from close wasn't close. His shot was blocked and the ball went out of bounds and was awarded back to Notre Dame with 0.3 seconds left — just enough time for a catch and shoot.

Pflueger inbounded the ball under the Irish basket and found T.J. Gibbs in the corner for a quick and open look from 3.

Playing its second road game in three nights, Notre Dame was content to play a way it has not always wanted to play against Virginia's pack-line defense. Slow. None of this get the ball off the defensive backboard and get down the floor before the Cavaliers' defense had a chance to set up. The Irish often walked it up, believing their efficient offense would win out over efficient defense.

The Irish missed their first eight 3-pointers in the second half. They made their ninth, and it was a big one. When Gibbs drained a corner 3 in front of the Irish bench, it gave the visitors a 47-45 lead with 2:39 left.

A Hubb jumper in the lane with 13:22 remaining gave Notre Dame its largest lead to that point, 34-29. It lasted for all of 18 seconds before a Casey Morsell 3 brought the home team back within two. A Jay Huff 3 — his first points of the night — tied it at 38 with 9:49 remaining.

Following Notre Dame's first shot-clock violation and a timeout, a Huff hook gave Virginia its first lead at 40-38 since it was 10-9 early in the first half. Huff wasn't done. He then hit a 3 to make it 43-38 with 7:51 left. Eight of Virginia's 10 unanswered points came from Huff.

Virginia's defense looked more like Virginia's defense in the second half.

The Irish were coming off Sunday’s four-point win at Clemson, where they scored a then-league season low 61 points. Brey was OK with not getting at least 80 points for a fifth straight game, saying that Tuesday’s game was going to be more wrestling match than free-flow offense.

Virginia scored a season-high 73 points in Saturday’s loss at No. 5 Louisville.

The teams combined to shoot 19-of-53 from the field in a first half that saw the Irish lead for 11:50. Virginia led for all of 2:17.

Notre Dame has never won in now five trips to John Paul Jones Arena. Notre Dame has never beaten Virginia at anywhere besides a neutral site — 1981 at the then-Rosemont Horizon on the outskirts of Chicago and at the 2017 ACC Tournament in Brooklyn, N.Y. That was the game where Rex Pflueger mustered a breakaway steal near midcourt and went in uncontested for a reverse dunk. Afterward, he said he had wished he’d done a 360-degree dunk.

He wasn’t joking.

Notre Dame’s longest league road swing — three in a row — wraps Saturday at No. 7 Duke, currently in second place in the league. The Irish traveling party was expected to return home around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday. They had been on the road since leaving for South Carolina early Saturday afternoon.


At Charlottesville, Va.

NOTRE DAME (49): Durham 3-4 0-1 6, Mooney 4-14 3-6 11, Gibbs 2-11 0-0 6, Hubb 5-12 0-0 12, Pflueger 0-5 0-0 0, Laszewski 5-11 0-0 11, Goodwin 1-4 0-0 3, Djogo 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-61 3-7 49.

VIRGINIA (50): Diakite 7-15 6-8 20, Huff 3-5 0-1 8, Clark 4-9 0-0 9, Key 1-7 1-2 3, Woldetensae 2-9 0-0 5, Morsell 2-5 0-0 5, Stattmann 0-1 0-0 0, Caffaro 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-51 7-11 50.

Halftime_Notre Dame 26-22. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 6-26 (Gibbs 2-4, Hubb 2-7, Goodwin 1-2, Laszewski 1-6, Pflueger 0-2, Mooney 0-5), Virginia 5-20 (Huff 2-3, Clark 1-2, Morsell 1-3, Woldetensae 1-8, Diakite 0-1, Key 0-3). Rebounds_Notre Dame 29 (Mooney 14), Virginia 37 (Key 13). Assists_Notre Dame 11 (Pflueger 5), Virginia 8 (Clark, Woldetensae 3). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 14, Virginia 12.

Notre Dame power forward Juwan Durham dunks during Tuesday's game at Virginia.