Notre Dame undone by late Virginia run
Joseph Monardo | Saturday, February 22, 2014
What was for most of the night a gritty performance from the Irish turned into a debacle in the final minutes and the most recent chapter in what has been a disappointing season for Notre Dame.
Tied with the Irish with just more than 11 minutes to play, host Virginia embarked on a 25-point run to close out a dominant 70-49 victory and secure its spot atop the ACC on Saturday at the John Paul Jones Arena.
“That is an example of how fragile a game can be,” Irish coach Mike Brey told reporters afterward. “For 30 minutes, I really liked what we were doing. Virginia is really good. They are really, really good. I think they are the best team in the league and they put it on us twice. … The whole team is so explosive.”Notre Dame (14-14, 5-10 ACC) went scoreless from the 11:25 mark of the second half to 2:32 remaining, when freshman guard Demetrius Jackson converted a tough finish at the basket. The Irish missed 10 straight field-goal attempts and failed to convert the front end of a pair of one-and-one opportunities during the stretch.
“It was tough to match up against them,” Irish sophomore forward Zach Auguste said. “We didn’t take care of our business like men.”
Irish junior forward Pat Connaughton led the Irish with 11 points and senior center Garrick Sherman scored eight. But Connaughton, Sherman and senior guard Eric Atkins, who contributed four points, combined to shoot 10-for-31. As a whole, the Irish made 21 of their 54 field-goal tries (38.9 percent) and were just 2-for-7 from the free-throw line. Virginia (22-5, 14-1), meanwhile, hit 28 of its 44 shots (63.6 percent). Cavaliers senior forward Akil Mitchell and redshirt sophomore Anthony Gill led the Cavaliers with 15 points apiece. Mitchell hit all seven of his field-goal attempts while Gill shot 5-for-6 in the game.
“Virginia might be the best team right now talent-wise,” Brey said. “They are very physical. They are really good at guarding you and they dictate the tempo of the game. I think they are a really confident group. Their team knows who they are on both ends of the court.”
After jumping out to an early 7-5 lead to start the game, Notre Dame endured a scoreless streak that spanned more than six minutes and ended with a Steve Vasturia 3-pointer with 10:40 remaining in the opening period. Virginia outscored the visitors 14-0 during the stretch to open up a 19-7 advantage.
Notre Dame found its way back into the contest, though. Down 11 with less than five minutes to play, the Irish hit three 3-pointers while finishing the half on a 15-4 run to enter the break even with Virginia at 30-30. Connaughton led the visitors with eight points in the period, and all nine players who entered the game for the Irish had at least one field goal.
The Irish grabbed an early lead in the second half and entered the game’s final 11 minutes tied with the Cavaliers at 43-43. But from there, Virginia outscored the visitors 27-6 to hand Notre Dame its worst loss of the season. Virginia beat the Irish 68-53 on Jan. 28, which now stands as Notre Dame’s second-largest defeat.
“We can’t dwell on it much and we are who we are right now,” Brey said. “We have two games at home and we will take it from there. I’m really proud of our three freshmen and I want to keep encouraging them. We missed a lot of stuff around the bucket that was very deflating. We missed a lot of shots. We tried to get our big guys to roll off of those shots, but it wasn’t working.
“We have to get back and figure out a little more about who we are before we go to Greensboro [for the ACC tournament on March 12].”
Having concluded their three-game road swing, Notre Dame returns home for a two-game homestand starting with Georgia Tech on Wednesday.