Irish look to build against Hokies after historic win over Duke
Marek Mazurek | Wednesday, January 20, 2016
After upsetting then-No. 9 Duke, the Irish are looking to build momentum as they host Virginia Tech tonight at Purcell Pavilion.
Notre Dame (12-5, 3-2 ACC) downed the Blue Devils, 95-91, on Saturday at Cameron Indoor Stadium behind a career-high 31 points from sophomore forward Bonzie Colson. The victory gave Notre Dame its first signature win of the season, and junior forward V.J. Beachem said the team’s confidence is high going into Wednesday’s matchup.
“Just to get a win like that, for our team to grow the way it did Saturday, I think was a huge step for us,” Beachem said. “We want to keep it going.”
However, defeating Virginia Tech (12-6, 4-1) will likely not be an easy task for Notre Dame. The Hokies have a quartet of wins in conference play, including a marquee win of their own over No. 13 Virginia on Jan. 5. Irish head coach Mike Brey said it will be important for his team to not become overconfident following the big win.
“It’s a matter of staying grounded and hungry again,” Brey said. “We’ve never had to prepare after winning two in a row. This is a new two days of preparation. We’ve had two days of preparation after a loss, man, we’ve been really focused. I’m very excited to see our focus here after people have told [the players] they’re pretty good for 48 hours.”
The Hokies are currently tied for third in the ACC, but few expected them to have this level of success, and a preseason media poll of conference media members ranked Virginia Tech 14th out of 15 ACC teams. Brey said the key to the Hokies’ success is head coach Buzz Williams and talented guard play.
“They just play fearlessly,” Brey said. “Buzz [Williams] gets my vote for coach of the year. His teams have always played fearlessly. He’s got his kids believing. They guard you, they play hard. They’ve got really good guards, their guard are good and can control the game. They’ve been down and completely out of it; they have a lot of heart. Down double digits and they come back against NC State and Georgia Tech and they steal wins.”
As the Irish look to extend their winning streak to three games, Brey said he plans to keep freshman forward Matt Ryan in the starting lineup despite Colson’s breakout game against Duke. Brey praised Colson, who began the season as a starter but was dropped to the bench last Wednesday, for his performance under pressure Saturday.
“[Colson] is one of those guys who loves those atmospheres,” Brey said. “He has consistently, in this young career of his, delivered when the lights are bright. I though he gave us a lot of confidence with his demeanor and his attitude [Saturday].”
Another emerging player for the Irish is freshman guard Rex Pflueger, who chipped in seven points and two blocks in 23 minutes played on Saturday. Beachem said the team benefits from Pflueger’s defensive energy.
“[Pflueger’s] very important for us because of his activity defensively,” Beachem said. “That’s something that we need, and he knocked down some shots Saturday as well. But defensively, that’s something that we’re going to need all season.”
The game will tip off at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Purcell Pavilion as the Irish go for three straight wins.
“It certainly sets up pretty well for us,” Brey said. “If can get to a point where we win this one Wednesday, and you win three games in a row in this league, as crazy as this league is, we’d be thrilled.”