Mike Monaco | Wednesday, January 29, 2014
On a frigid night, Virginia stayed hot while Notre Dame remained cold.
The Notre Dame students swarmed into Purcell Pavilion, but the Virginia defense swarmed the Irish all evening.
And it all added up to a 68-53 Virginia victory on Tuesday night at Purcell Pavilion.
“We just gotta give it to them,” Irish sophomore forward Zach Auguste said. “They definitely gave us a beating.”
Notre Dame (11-10, 2-6 ACC) has lost six of its last seven games. Virginia (16-5, 7-1 ACC), meanwhile, is off to its best start in conference play since 1982-83, when star center Ralph Sampson and the Cavaliers began 7-1 in the ACC.
“Let’s give them a lot of credit,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “I think that’s the best team in the league, most confident team in the league. They thoroughly beat us down tonight.”
Beckoned by free admission and cancelled classes, the Irish student section was raucous at first, yet soon deflated as the Cavalier lead ballooned. Virginia’s suffocating defense — which entered Tuesday’s action in the top five nationally in opponent scoring average at 56.2 points per game — forced the Irish into a season-high 20 turnovers, and Notre Dame shot 20-of-47 (43 percent) from the field. Virginia scored 29 points off Irish turnovers.
Under Brey, Notre Dame’s most first-half turnovers is 14. Thirteen of the 20 Irish turnovers came in the first half Tuesday.
“I don’t know if you ever survive 13 first-half turnovers and deserve to win a game, 20 for the game,” Brey said. “We made some bad decisions, but I think they’re really good defensively, kind of imposed their will on us and broke our spirit a little bit.”
The Cavaliers stormed out of the gates and claimed a 20-point lead at one point in the first half. Ten minutes into the night, the Irish had more turnovers (eight) than field-goal attempts (seven). But Notre Dame entered the break on a 9-0 run and trailed by 10 at the intermission.
In turn, however, the Cavaliers began the second stanza with a 9-0 run of their own and pushed their lead to 43-24 within the first four minutes.
“I don’t know how the heck we made a run, I mean, when you have 13 first-half turnovers,” Brey said. “You have a little life at the end of the first half. I don’t even think we deserved that. But then the second half we couldn’t get stops.”
Virginia rolled right on and busted open a 58-34 lead with 7:26 remaining in the second half. The Irish only got as close as 14 points the rest of the way. Auguste and freshman guard Demetrius Jackson led the Irish with 10 points apiece, while senior center Garrick Sherman, senior point guard Eric Atkins and junior forward Pat Connaughton combined for 21 points on 8-for-23 shooting.
“As far as offensively, tonight’s an example of when your three old guys can’t really find a very good rhythm, I don’t know if we’ll beat anybody that way,” Brey said.
Cavaliers redshirt sophomore guard Malcolm Brogdon scored a game-high 16 points and sophomore center Mike Tobey added 14, as Virginia hit 54 percent of its shots from the field. Brogdon stuffed the stat sheet with seven rebounds, six assists and five steals.
“His stat line was terrific,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said of Brogdon. “He was very complete and he’s showing that.”
The Cavaliers led from wire to wire and held a double-digit lead for the final 29:36.
“You look at one of those and you’re amazed it only counts as one loss,” Brey said. “We’ll go back to work tomorrow and try to find out how to regroup and win a league game.”
Notre Dame looks to snap its three-game losing streak when it hosts Boston College on Saturday at Purcell Pavilion.