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Men’s Basketball

Notre Dame struggles offensively in loss to Virginia

| Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Something had to give.

No. 14 Notre Dame came into its matchup against the Cavaliers averaging 81 points per game, and No. 12 Virginia came in giving up just 53.

On Tuesday evening, it was Notre Dame who gave, as the Irish (17-4, 6-2 ACC) lost to the Cavaliers (16-3, 6-2 ACC), 71-54.

“We got our butts kicked,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said following the loss. “They’ve not been a great matchup for us, and we take our hat off to them.”

Cavaliers senior guard London Perrantes led all scorers with 22 points and went 5-of-8 from the 3-point line to help push the Cavaliers to a road victory.

“Perrantes is a good player,” Irish senior guard Steve Vasturia said. “He plays at a really good pace — he’s been doing it for four years for them. Nothing really bothers him. He’s a good player, and he made the shots he needed to.”

Irish senior guard Steve Vasturia launches a jumper during Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion. Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish senior guard Steve Vasturia launches a jumper during Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

Meanwhile, the Irish offense suffered against the staunch Wahoo defense. The Irish shot just 42 percent from the floor and picked up only nine assists in the game. Senior forward V.J. Beachem, who tallied a career-high 30 points against Syracuse on Saturday, went cold from the get-go and finished the night with a mere two points on 1-of-10 shooting.

“It’s the opposite of Saturday,” Brey said. “We were going to have to make some stuff over the top. We made it Saturday, and we didn’t make enough of them and you’re going to have to make some shots over the top.

“V.J. had some good looks; he just missed them.”

The top-ranked Virginia defense lived up to its billing to start the game, as the Cavaliers took a 14-7 lead after nine minutes. The Irish shot just 3-for-11 in field goal attempts during that stretch, including going 1-for-6 from beyond the arc despite some open looks.

Perrantes hit two shots with under five seconds left on the shot clock to spark Virginia’s offense, and the Cavaliers maintained the lead for most of the first half.

With a little over six minutes remaining in the first half, both offenses kicked into gear. Irish junior forward Bonzie Colson completed a 3-point play to tie the game at 16. Perrantes came back at the other end of the floor and nailed a 3 to put the Cavaliers back on top. Colton scored two consecutive baskets before Perrantes knocked down yet another 3-pointer, only to see Colson hit a jumper to tie the game at 22.

Colson finished the half with 14 points, but Perrantes’ 10 points and a late layup from junior guard Marial Shayok gave Virginia a 27-26 advantage going into the break. Vasturia added eight points as well, but other than Colson and Vasturia, the rest of the team scored just four points in the opening frame.

“Bonzie was huge in the first half,” Vasturia said. “He obviously helps this team go and he’s a big part of our offense, and we need him to keep scoring and keep attacking the rest of the season.”

The second half looked like it might get away from Notre Dame early. Three Irish turnovers gave Virginia three layups, but Brey’s squad punched back with six quick points from junior guard Matt Farrell.

Irish sophomore Rex Pflueger drives towards the baseline during Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.Kathleen Donahue | The Observer
Irish sophomore Rex Pflueger drives towards the baseline during Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss to Virginia on Tuesday at Purcell Pavilion.

The Irish struggled to find a foothold, however, as they had trouble getting the ball into the paint against the aggressive Virginia defense. Without consistent driving lanes, the Irish were forced to the 3-point line, but they struggled to make shots. The Irish finished the game shooting 3-of-18 from behind the arc.

“They’re always in position defensively,” Beachem said. “Especially when you try to drive, they’re always there — they know when to gap and when to get back.”

Another facet that hurt the Irish was allowing Virginia offensive rebounds. The Cavaliers picked up 10 offensive boards and outrebounded the Irish by a total of 38-22 on the glass.

“I thought to try and help us offensively, we needed to go small,” Brey said. “And what happens is they took advantage of us on the backboard there. Some of our most encouraging offensive spurts were when we downshifted, but the other side of that is the backboard. And they got — I think — 15 points on second chance shots, and there’s where you get burned on it.”

As the clocked ticked under eight minutes to play, Notre Dame trailed by nine points, but four straight free-throws from Vasturia brought the Irish back within five.

But five clutch points from Cavalier freshman guard Ty Jerome extended Virginia’s lead back to eight. Also key for the Cavaliers were free-throws: Virginia did not make it to the line in the first half, but shot 12-for-14 in the second period. On the other side, the Irish, normally stellar from the line, missed five foul shots in the second half alone.

As the closing minutes of the game wound down, Notre Dame couldn’t find a surge and dropped its second ACC contest.

Next up for Notre Dame is a road game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, and Brey said he believes the tough loss can help propel the team forward.

“I think it’s good; it gets your attention,” Brey said. “I think it sets you up for really being able to have a heck of a practice on Thursday.”

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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