Another chance against a ranked team, another loss for Notre Dame men's basketball

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

BLACKSBURG, Va. — Make that 0-for-26, which seems more like 0-for-forever for the Notre Dame men's basketball team.

Unable to carry over efficiency on both ends after halftime, Notre Dame remained winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference following a 77-63 loss Sunday to No. 19 Virginia Tech at Cassell Coliseum.

The Irish (3-7; 0-4 ACC) came into the contest having lost their last 25 games to ranked teams dating back to November 2017. That included 0-4 this season.

The last time Notre Dame beat a ranked team on the road was January 2016 when it won for the first time at Duke. The last time it beat a ranked team was Wichita State in Maui in November 2017.

Power forward Nate Laszewski led the Irish with 17 points before fouling out with 1:59 remaining. He had almost as many fouls (five) as field goal attempts (six).

Up seven at halftime, Notre Dame trailed by as many as 14 in the second half. The Irish have lost three in a row and five of six. They're now 0-5 against ranked teams this season.

"You're not going to beat a good team playing 20-25 minutes and that's kind of what we've done against really good teams," said coach Mike Brey. "We're trying to learn the hard way to put 40 minutes together.

"We've been happy at halftime couple times."

Irish guard Trey Wertz was available Sunday after missing the previous game with a sprained ankle. Wertz was injured near halftime of the Dec. 30 home game against No. 22 Virginia. He was expected to miss two weeks. Wertz returned to practice Friday. He checked in at the 14:07 mark of the first half, then knocked down his first shot from 3 to give the Irish a six-point lead at 12:10. That capped a stretch where the Irish made eight of nine shots.

"We're still trying to learn to be more mentally tough when we're not in a good offensive rhythm," Brey said. "We can still defend."

Brey juggled his starting lineup for the third time this season. Out went Dane Goodwin, the team's third leading scorer at 13.8 and in came fifth-year guard Nik Djogo, averaging 3.7. Since scoring a season high 27 against Bellarmine on Dec. 23, Goodwin had a combined 11 the next two games. He was in the game after the first media timeout.

Goodwin scored a team-high 10 points in 15 minutes to help the Irish take a seven-point lead, 42-35, at halftime. Notre Dame had no answer for the instant offense of guard Jalen Cone, who delivered a game-high 14 points in 13 minutes off the bench in the first half. Notre Dame played all nine scholarship players the first 20 minutes. Eight Irish scored.

Goodwin was back on the bench, then off it less than two minutes into the second half. Notre Dame's seven-point halftime advantage was wiped out with an 8-0 Hokie run the first 3:33 of the second half. A 14-3 run helped the Hokies push to a four-point lead early.

It was hard for the Irish in the second half, mainly because they couldn't make shots. In the first 12:11 of the second half, Notre Dame made only two of 12 looks from the field.

The Irish finished 2-for-19 from the floor in the second half. Only Prentiss Hubb made a field goal for Notre Dame. The Irish finished 10.5 percent from the floor, 10 percent (1-of-10) from 3 in the second half.

"It's so fickle," Brey said. "I've tried to explain that to them. We've kind of learned it that way."

Sunday was the first game after a seven-day break because of coronavirus. Notre Dame’s scheduled home game against Georgia Tech was postponed Wednesday because of coronavirus issues within the Yellow Jackets’ program. Notre Dame has had six games — three in ACC play — affected by COVID-19. All six because of issues with opposing teams.

Notre Dame was one of three league teams — Boston College, Wake Forest — still searching for its first conference win. The Irish have never opened 0-4 in league play, either in the Big East or the ACC. Virginia Tech had its first three league games decided by a total of 10 points, including Wednesday’s one-point loss at league-leading Louisville. Notre Dame’s first three ACC games were decided by a total of 20 points — 10, nine, one.

Sunday started stretches of four games in nine days and four of five on the road for the Irish, who came into the contest having won once — Dec. 12 at Kentucky —away from home this season.


At Blacksburg, Va.

NOTRE DAME (3-7): Durham 3-5 0-1 6, Laszewski 3-6 11-12 17, Djogo 1-2 2-2 4, Hubb 3-14 2-3 9, Ryan 3-10 2-4 10, Goodwin 3-4 4-4 12, Wertz 1-4 0-0 3, Zona 1-2 0-0 2, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0, Sanders 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-48 21-26 63.

VIRGINIA TECH (9-2): Aluma 5-9 5-6 15, Mutts 7-13 0-0 14, Alleyne 0-6 0-0 0, Bede 2-5 0-0 4, Radford 4-7 1-2 9, Cattoor 5-10 2-2 15, Cone 5-12 4-6 18, N'Guessan 1-2 0-0 2, Maddox 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-64 12-16 77.

Halftime_Notre Dame 42-35. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 6-23 (Goodwin 2-3, Ryan 2-8, Wertz 1-2, Hubb 1-8, Djogo 0-1, Laszewski 0-1), Virginia Tech 7-23 (Cone 4-10, Cattoor 3-5, Alleyne 0-2, Aluma 0-2, Bede 0-2, Mutts 0-2). Fouled Out_Laszewski. Rebounds_Notre Dame 24 (Ryan 7), Virginia Tech 38 (Aluma 12). Assists_Notre Dame 11 (Hubb 6), Virginia Tech 8 (Aluma, Mutts, Bede 2). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 15, Virginia Tech 22.

Notre Dame guard Cormac Ryan, right, drives against Virginia Tech’s Hunter Cattoor (0) during Sunday’s game at Cassell Coliseum.