Career effort from Nate Laszewski goes to waste as Notre Dame loses another ACC home game

Tom Noie
South Bend Tribune
Virginia Tech's Grant Basile (21) comes down with a rebound over Notre Dame's Ven-Allen Lubin (2) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

SOUTH BEND — It’s been difficult to feel much sympathy this season for a group of Notre Dame men’s basketball super seniors who returned for one more run, but haven’t gotten it done. 

It was easy to feel for super senior Nate Laszewski following Saturday’s 93-87 loss to Virginia Tech in a game where the Irish allowed a season high for points and just didn’t have the firepower to hang with the Hokies. 

Normally, a game like Laszewski had at this time of year would’ve meant everything to a player who sees his college career finish line in sight. Laszewski scored a career high 33 points with eight rebounds, which would’ve been a cinch to earn consideration for league player of the week honors. Maybe make a push toward league post-season honors. Play well, get a win, and this was the kind of game that could’ve propelled Laszewski and the Irish toward a late-season run in March. 

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Instead, it all went to waste as another loss in a lost season, a game Laszewski likely forgot by the time he showered and changed and headed out into a sunny late afternoon. Forget taking the box score home, or remembering much from this one. Forget discussing it. Heck, Laszewski didn’t even make it to the post-game interview room (no Irish did) to dissect the day. 

That’s a first. In Mike Brey’s 23 seasons at Notre Dame, a run that will end next month, the head coach had always made his players accountable after home games. Five-overtime victory that ended after midnight 10 years ago this week over Louisville? The Irish talked. Home loss to Holy Cross in front of select dozens at the 2005 post-season National Invitation Tournament? The Irish talked. They always answered for what happened. Saturday, it was like, ah, what’s the point? What could the Irish say that they haven’t said so many times this season? 

They’ve run out of answers. There’s nothing more to say. Like their head coach, they’re just playing out the string. Counting it down with spring break now clearly in sight. There’s no use dwelling on it, or discussing it or letting it linger any longer that it has to linger. All Brey said to his guys after a loss that dropped Notre Dame to 10-15 overall and 2-12 in the Atlantic Coast Conference was practice Sunday at 3 p.m. 

Brey then barged into the post-game presser as if he’d just chugged a post-game Red Bull, full of energy and offering up words for what had happened.  

“Oh my God!” Brey bellowed before even sitting down. “We could score, but we could never get (a stop). They’re so old and they have a tempo. They’re really gifted. Quite frankly, you hope they miss a few.” 

Virginia Tech's Grant Basile (21) points to a teammate after making a basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in South Bend, Ind. Basile scored 33 points, including 16 in a near six-minute stretch of the second half, and Virginia Tech defeated Notre Dame 93-87 on Saturday. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

The Hokies didn’t miss much. 

Not even 15 minutes after this one ended, it wasn’t even about Laszewski doing all he could to help the Irish try and get going in some sort of positive direction before everything ends early next month. For Laszewski, according to his head coach, this was all about him doing work for whatever comes after this season. 

Games like Saturday are all for Laszewski’s future. Forget the present. Nothing more to see or do for the Irish. Oh, maybe he and his fellow super seniors who fell to 2-6 at home in league play will win a game or two here or there, but days like Saturday, at least for Laszewski, are for the next chapter in his basketball book. 

“Playing great,” Brey said. “I feel bad. I will tell him to not dwell on the loss and keep playing his backside off because he’s now playing for some salary and some money and stuff and being scouted and all that stuff, so God bless him. Go do it. 

“Come on, man. Business is business.” 

Notre Dame's Nate Laszewski (14) shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Virginia Tech, Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

As unstoppable as Laszewski was for stretches, Notre Dame couldn't contain Virginia Tech power forward Grant Basile. Last spring, Basile visited Notre Dame as a graduate transfer from Wright State over the same mid-April weekend as current Irish super senior guard Marcus Hammond. The Irish secured a commitment from Hammond, and also wanted Basile, but Basile wanted something else. 

Make that somewhere else. Specifically, Blacksburg, where the Hokies had just come off a season in which they won the league tournament as the No. 7 seed. Basile chose Virginia Tech over Notre Dame, then returned to campus Saturday and incinerated the Irish. 

Working mainly against single coverage in the post, and often matched against an overmatched guard when the Irish got caught in switches, Basile and his big game rekindled memories of the 2015 NCAA tournament game (and loss) To Kentucky. That’s the night in Cleveland when Brey refused to run a double team at Kentucky big Karl-Anthony Towns, who kept getting prime post position, kept getting the ball and kept scoring. 

Notre Dame's Dane Goodwin (23) and Virginia Tech's Mylyjael Poteat (34) fight for a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

Basile did much of the same. Carved space near the basket. Got the ball, scored the ball. On consecutive possessions, he scored, was fouled and made a free throw. Then he scored on five straight touches. Basile, bucket, Basile, bucket, Basile, bucket. Basile, bucket. Basile, bucket. 

The touches and the points just kept coming. Someone make it stop.

No one did. 

“You could see why I tried to get Basile,” Brey said. “Did a great job on that recruiting, huh? Did a great job on that front. He’s really good.” 

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Notre Dame had no counter for Basile (33 points) in the post or Justyn Mutts facilitating everything or for guards MJ Collins and Sean Pedulla. The way the Hokies cut and moved and shared it (19 assists) is the way the Irish used to cut and move and share it. Except, they had a big man they could feed and keep feeding. Afterward, as the teams made their way through the post-game handshake line, Basile offered Brey a hug. 

Notre Dame's JJ Starling (1) drives to the basket as Virginia Tech's Sean Pedulla (3) defends during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 11, 2023 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Michael Caterina)

He really could have used a handshake commitment last spring. Might have turned around the whole Notre Dame season. Might not have, but at least we could dream, right?

Now? The Irish — those super seniors — are stuck in a nightmare that seemingly has no end. 

Follow South Bend Tribune and NDInsider columnist Tom Noie on Twitter: @tnoieNDI. Contact: (574) 235-6153.


VIRGINIA TECH (93): Basile 13-19 4-4 33, Mutts 7-16 3-7 19, Cattoor 2-3 2-2 8, Collins 4-7 3-3 12, Pedulla 4-7 3-3 12, Camden 0-1 0-0 0, Kidd 2-2 2-2 6, Poteat 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 32-56 20-25 93. 

NOTRE DAME (87): Laszewski 12-17 3-4 33, Lubin 5-8 1-1 11, Goodwin 2-6 1-1 5, Hammond 4-8 0-0 9, Ryan 6-10 0-0 17, Starling 4-10 1-1 9, Wertz 1-2 0-0 3, Zona 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 34-62 6-7 87. 

Halftime: Virginia Tech 43-40. 3-Point Goals: Virginia Tech 9-21 (Basile 3-7, Cattoor 2-3, Mutts 2-5, Collins 1-3, Pedulla 1-3), Notre Dame 13-30 (Laszewski 6-9, Ryan 5-9, Wertz 1-2, Hammond 1-4, Lubin 0-1, Goodwin 0-2, Starling 0-3). Rebounds: Virginia Tech 29 (Mutts 8), Notre Dame 25 (Laszewski 8). Assists: Virginia Tech 19 (Mutts 9), Notre Dame 14 (Hammond 4). Total Fouls: Virginia Tech 13, Notre Dame 19. A: 6,632 (9,149).