Irish fall short of redemption win over No. 4 Virginia
Grant DelVecchio | Monday, February 18, 2019
After an embarrassing 27-point loss at the hands of No. 4 Virginia inside Purcell Pavilion in late January, Notre Dame traveled to John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, Va. on Saturday in hopes of redeeming themselves from their mid-season blunder.
While the Irish (13-12, 3-9 ACC) failed to get the win, ultimately losing by a score of 60-54 to the Cavaliers (22-2, 10-2 ACC), Notre Dame gave the Cavaliers all they could handle, falling just short of a massive upset. Irish head coach Mike Brey said he was happy with the way his team competed and kept the game close.
“That’s about as good as we’ve got. I’m proud of our group.” Brey said. “ … We competed and stuck our nose in there and for our developing group, that’s kind of what I wanted to see today.”
Brey said the beating that the Irish took at home from the Cavaliers just three weeks prior fueled Notre Dame’s fire heading into the rematch Saturday.
“We were embarrassed — all of us — how they kind of took our spirit from us at home … but we just kind of hung our heads,” Brey said. “We’ve got high character kids, and I know they wanted to bounce back, and I thought they did today. I told them, I said, if we can compete like that down the stretch, that’s the way we need to finish the season.”
The loss dropped Notre Dame to 1-5 against ranked teams this season, but the Irish made sure to play hard for a full 40 minutes, keeping the score close all the way up until the final buzzer.
Junior guard T.J. Gibbs led the Irish scoring with 17 points on 6-of-14 shooting from the field, while junior forward John Mooney collected his ACC-leading 16th double-double of the season after recording 11 points and 15 rebounds.
The Irish were able to stay in the game thanks to an impressive defensive effort. Virginia was able to survive down the stretch though, despite going without a field goal for the final 6:40 of the game. Switching in-and-out of zone and man-to-man defenses, the Irish held the Cavaliers to their second-worst shooting performance of the year at 36.5 percent from the field. Virginia also committed all eight of their turnovers in the second half.
“We defended well — we really guarded them,” Brey said. “We’re certainly offensively challenged. We’re going to have to guard. I thought we dug in. … I’m thrilled with our defense.”
For Notre Dame, while the defensive effort was there, shooting woes and offensive struggles continued. The Irish finished the game shooting 34.5 percent from the field (19-of-55) and 26.7 percent (8-of-30) from deep, including a measly 20 percent from beyond the arc in the second half. While Virginia’s famous pack-line defense effectively strangled the flow of the Irish offense, Notre Dame was able to stay within reach the entire game.
For the Cavaliers, junior guard Kyle Guy led the way with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. Redshirt sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter also paced Virginia down the stretch, providing the Cavaliers with a bucket seemingly every time they seemed to be going through a scoring drought. Hunter finished with 20 points on 6-of-11 shooting to go along with his 10 rebounds.
“He’s got a mid-range game and he’s physical enough to get to the bucket … he’s a hard match-up for anybody in this league—certainly for us,” Brey said of Hunter.
Brey also went on to comment on the talent and poise of both Guy and junior guard Ty Jerome, the leaders of the backcourt for the Cavaliers.
“I have the utmost respect for Guy and Jerome. I use them as examples for my young guards, to watch those two guys because they are such big-time winners, and they know who they are, and they play within themselves. They’re assassins and winners and they’ve had great careers,” Brey said.
Moving forward, Brey said he is excited about his team’s prospects.
“They’re getting there, man, they are … I like who we are,” he said. “This group all comes back, it’s like a two-year plan with this group, so I’m excited and I would just love to see us finish with this same grit.”
This is the first time in Brey’s 19-year tenure in South Bend that the Irish have had minutes from five scholarship freshmen, and it is the first time since the 1999-2000 season that Notre Dame started three true freshmen in a game — guards Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin and forward Nate Laszewski.
Next up for the Irish is a matchup inside Purcell Pavilion against a struggling Wake Forest team on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Demon Deacons (9-15, 2-10 ACC) just lost by 38 points at home to North Carolina.