No answers for Notre Dame against No. 18 Virginia

Tribune Staff Report
ND Insider

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Official start time for Wednesday’s Atlantic Coast Conference game between Notre Dame and No. 18 Virginia changed three times.

A fourth or fifth different tip time — maybe even a different opponent or site — may have helped. Then again, maybe not.

Unable to get enough buckets from the guys who have, have, have to make them, Notre Dame trailed by double digits barely 12 minutes in and spent the rest of the late afternoon, early evening battling back in an 80-68 loss at John Paul Jones Arena.

“They made big jump shots in the first 10 minutes and we made none of our open ones,” said Irish coach Mike Brey. “The game was kind of over after that.”

Notre Dame trailed by as many as 15 points in the first half, by 12 at intermission and by 24 in the second half. The Irish got back to within 10 twice thanks to some good offensive flow, but it was too late.

“We’re fighting; we’re trying,” Brey said. “We’re not the most confident group. We can’t be when you’ve played the teams we’ve played and just haven’t been able to go in the locker room and celebrate.”

Wednesday was consecutive loss No. 27 dating back to November 2017 for Notre Dame against a ranked team.

Notre Dame (3-8; 0-5 ACC) has lost four in a row and six of seven. It didn’t crack 40 points Wednesday until 10 minutes remained. A 23-9 run allowed the Irish to get back within 10 with 5:41 left. Two Cormac Ryan free throws again brought the Irish within 10 with 5:08 remaining.

“I was just trying to be aggressive,” said Ryan, who came off the bench to start the second half and led the Irish with 16 points. “I don’t think it was anything special. Just trying to make plays, do whatever the team needs to try and battle back into the game.”

Less than three minutes later, a 7-0 Cavalier run pushed the advantage back to 17.

Trey Wertz added 13 points for the Irish in his second game back from an ankle injury suffered in the first game against Virginia. Notre Dame’s five guards were a combined 4-of-18 from 3.

“To see Wertz and Ryan in some kind of offensive rhythm fitting in and feeling good, playing with our key guys, I’ll take that out of the second half today,” Brey said. “I didn’t think we could get over the hump in the second half. Tried to, but couldn’t.”

Jay Huff led Virginia (8-2; 4-0) with 18 points. Sam Hauser added 15.

The top shooting team in the league from 3 coming in at .377, Notre Dame finished 5-for-22 (22.7 percent) from distance. The 92 makes from 3 prior to Wednesday was third most in the conference.

This game originally was scheduled to start at 8:30 p.m., but was moved up because the Commonwealth has a mandatory 10 p.m. coronavirus curfew. As of early Wednesday evening, Notre Dame was one of two teams in the ACC (Wake Forest) still winless in league play. Wake hosted Louisville late Wednesday. The Irish were picked in preseason to finish 12th in the 15-team ACC.

Virginia has won the last six in the series since Notre Dame’s last win on March 5, 2017 in the ACC tournament.

These teams met Dec. 30 in South Bend. That was a nine-point Virginia win on a night when Notre Dame never led. So an early 6-5 lead Wednesday following a Juwan Durham pullup jumper was a win of sorts for the Irish. That early lead — the only Irish lead — lasted all of 19 seconds as Virginia easily solved Notre Dame’s mix of man and zone defenses to make four of its first five shots and lead 10-6 at the first media timeout.

The Irish opened by making two of their first 11 shots from the floor, including six misses in a row to endure a scoreless stretch of 4:50. Halfway through the first half, Notre Dame had 10 points and was 0-for-7 from 3. Good news was the Irish had twice as many baskets at that point (four) than they had in the entire second half Sunday at No. 20 Virginia Tech.

Defensively, the Irish tried a mix of man and zone (they went to a 2/3 on the Cavaliers’ third possession) to slow the home team.

Notre Dame tumbled into a double-digit deficit (37-25) at halftime for two reasons. The Irish couldn’t make a shot from 3, and couldn’t keep the Cavalier frontline of Hauser and Huff from missing many of theirs. Notre Dame missed its first 10 3-pointers before Wertz finally got one to go late in the half. Meanwhile, Hauser and Huff combined for as many points in the first 20 minutes — 25 — as the Irish.

The Irish were 1-of-13 from 3 in the first half. The shooting struggles overshadowed a strong effort from Durham, who made all four of his shots from the field and had 10 points. Nobody else had more than six for the Irish, who trailed for 19:25. Notre Dame’s five perimeter players combined to shoot 3-for-20 from the field, 1-of-11 from 3, in the first half.

But if the Irish guards can’t make shots, the Irish have no shot.

• NO. 18 VIRGINIA 80, NOTRE DAME 68

At Charlottesville, Va.

NOTRE DAME (68): Durham 4-6 2-2 10, Laszewski 4-8 3-4 12, Goodwin 1-8 0-0 2, Hubb 4-9 1-1 9, Ryan 4-8 7-7 16, Wertz 4-9 2-2 13, Djogo 1-3 4-4 6, Morgan 0-0 0-0 0, Sanders 0-0 0-0 0, Zona 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-51 19-20 68.

VIRGINIA (80): Hauser 6-13 2-2 15, Huff 7-13 0-1 18, Beekman 2-5 2-2 7, Clark 5-11 1-1 12, Murphy 4-6 0-0 10, Morsell 6-7 0-0 15, Caffaro 1-2 1-1 3. Totals 31-57 6-7 80.

Halftime_Virginia 37-25. 3-Point Goals_Notre Dame 5-22 (Wertz 3-5, Ryan 1-3, Laszewski 1-4, Djogo 0-2, Hubb 0-2, Goodwin 0-6), Virginia 12-24 (Huff 4-8, Morsell 3-3, Murphy 2-4, Beekman 1-2, Clark 1-3, Hauser 1-4). Rebounds_Notre Dame 24 (Laszewski 8), Virginia 24 (Hauser 9). Assists_Notre Dame 10 (Wertz 4), Virginia 16 (Clark 6). Total Fouls_Notre Dame 8, Virginia 17.

Virginia forward Sam Hauser drives past Notre Dame power forward Juwan Durham during Wednesday’s game at John Paul Jones Arena.