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Men’s Basketball

Brey, Gibbs ready to redeem themselves against Virginia

| Friday, February 15, 2019

Notre Dame will look to string together back-to-back wins as they travel to Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday for a rematch against a familiar conference foe: Virginia.

The Cavaliers (21-2, 9-2 ACC) last visited Purcell Pavilion on Jan. 28 and left the building with a decisive 82-55 victory.

“[The game] was men versus boys. Flat out. Certainly, very impressed with Virginia and they kind of took our spirit. We couldn’t get into any offensive rhythm … It affected our fight, which was disappointing,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said following the January loss.

Annie Smierciak | The Observer
Irish junior guard T.J. Gibbs guards a Radford player during Notre Dame’s 63-60 loss to the Highlanders on Nov. 14 in Purcell Pavilion.

When asked during weekly media availability if fans should expect any changes to the starting lineup or in the way Notre Dame (13-11, 3-8) played the Cavaliers from the first go around, coach Brey offered several notes.

“If I had to do it all over again, I’d [put it on the players] to handle the ball better against their defense,” Brey said.

Junior guard T.J. Gibbs and freshman guard Dane Goodwin started in the backcourt for Notre Dame at home against Virginia, and Brey indicated freshman Prentiss Hubb will play alongside Gibbs.

“For us to beat anybody in this league, [Gibbs and Hubb] have to do well in everything,” Brey said.

Both teams did compete earlier on this past week, and both notched wins. Notre Dame beat Georgia Tech at Purcell Pavilion on Sunday, while Virginia escaped North Carolina with a win Monday in a primetime ESPN matchup.

Unlike against Virginia — where Brey felt the team lacked a certain level of competitiveness — Gibbs liked what he saw from his teammates in the win against Georgia Tech.

“It was fun to get out there and really compete,” Gibbs said in a postgame interview. “This is a game where we really competed — got after it. This was a win that was much needed and we’re trying to take off with it.”

For the Irish, these games serves as an opportunity to improve their standing in the ACC. However, the program is aware of the challenge playing a top-five team in the country presents.

“You know, I hope we got T.J. going a little bit here,” Brey said “Prentiss has been playing pretty well since that little gap where he wasn’t shooting it well. He’s playing really well for a young guard in this league.”

The Gibbs and Hubb backcourt tandem combined to score 33 of Notre Dame’s 69 total points in the Georgia Tech win.

Comparing Notre Dame’s performances against Virginia and Georgia Tech, the statistics show the difference maker in the Irish win over the Yellow Jackets was Notre Dame’s ability to get to the free throw line and convert.

Notre Dame made 21 of 25 free throws this past Sunday against Georgia Tech, compared to only eight free throw attempts against the Cavaliers in the late January loss.

With a 3-8 record in ACC play, further punctuated by a 1-4 record on the road, a Saturday trip to Charlottesville to play Virginia presents a lot of challenges for Notre Dame.

“I can’t say enough about [Virginia],” Brey said following the loss to the Cavaliers in January. “They can win the national championship. They are men that have won together and are polished. We are the exact opposite right now, searching and trying to build it. That was a perfect storm today that hit us right between the eyes.”

The previous matchup between these two teams never felt close. Virginia led by a double-digit scoring margin held for much of the game, a lead that was as much as 30 points at one point, leaving the Irish spiraling with their fourth consecutive loss.

Gibbs expressed how tough it was to play against Virginia, given the early hole Notre Dame found itself in against the opponent.

“It is hard to start off down so much and have to fight back the whole game. Especially against a good, active defensive team,” Gibbs said. “You just have to have a better start than that. We just got to keep pushing through and keep fighting.”

Tip-off is scheduled at 2 p.m. on Saturday.


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