Hokies take down Irish 87-80 in ACC tournament, maintain lead for entire game
Mannion McGinley | Thursday, March 10, 2022
NEW YORK — Notre Dame fell to Virginia Tech 87-80 in Thursday’s quarterfinal matchup of the ACC Tournament.
The teams had not seen each other since their Jan. 15 clash where the Irish gave up an eight-point second-half lead to fall 79-73 to the Hokies. This time the Hokies maintained the lead the whole time. While the Irish would close the gap, it wouldn’t prove to be enough.
“We dug ourselves a heck of a hole and I think you’ve got to give Virginia Tech credit. They’ve been a tough matchup for us,” head coach Mike Brey said referencing the first matchup as well as tonight’s.
Virginia Tech began the game with the ball and a quick basket from Keve Aluma. The Hokies saw 7 unanswered points before freshman guard Blake Wesley drove to the basket for the only Irish field goal of the first five minutes. This unanswered Hokie run would set the tone for the game. The Irish spent the better part of the first half down by ten or more as they struggled to find a rhythm on offense.
With 10:10 left in the half and down 15, Brey called a timeout to help the Irish reset. By then, the Hokies gave them 11 shots, but the Irish connected on only four of those, only one of which went for three. Immediately out of the timeout, the Irish put the pieces together with a three from senior forward Nate Laszewski and two free throws from Wesley. All of these points were answered by the Hokies.
On a bit of momentum, senior guard Cormac Ryan forced a turnover picked up by senior guard Dane Goodwin. Goodwin kicked it to Wesley who slammed it for two. Just before a media timeout, the Irish forced a pace change on Storm Murphy and the Hokies, snagging another turnover. Whatever momentum the Irish had was killed by the break, and the Hokies forced a shot clock violation and a turnover of their own.
In the final four minutes of the half, senior guard Prentiss Hubb took the offense under his wing, scoring twice and drawing a foul on one to earn the three-point play.
Still though, the Irish spent the half without an offensive rhythm: 7-20 from the field and 11 of the 31 Irish points stemmed from trips to the free-throw line in the first half. The Hokies closed the half with 42 points and 50% in field goals and 40% in three-pointers. This outshone the Irish’s 42.9% and 25%, respectively.
Ryan got the scoring started for the Irish in the second half. He kept the Hokie lead at ten until Nahiem Alleyne turned a made three into a four-point play, off a foul from Ryan.
Brey said they did find a better second-half rhythm, but the Irish “couldn’t really defend well enough against a really good offensive team.”
After a couple of scoreless exchanges, and his teammates repeatedly missing him underneath, Laszewski took to the lane for a basket. The lead bounced between 10 and 12 then as each of the next few possession saw scoring for both teams.
After another media timeout, Ryan had the opportunity to drop the Hokie lead down to eight as he drained two free throws. The Irish were able to keep the Hokies less than ten points out of their reach as the Hokies found themselves in foul trouble. A layup from graduate student forward Paul Atkinson Jr. and a three from Hubb brought the score to 64-55.
With 7:46 left in the second, the Irish had the ball under their own basket. Hubb found Goodwin underneath for two and the pair worked again seconds later. Despite the Hokies scoring in between, the pair linked a third time, and then a fourth when Goodwin drained a three. Within three minutes left in the game, Virginia Tech returned from the media timeout with the ball. They put the score at 76-68 off a three from Murphy. A second three from Murphy extended the lead 79-68.
Brey commented specifically on Murphy and his skill, especially late in the game and what it meant for the Irish.
“He’s a winner. He’s a big-time winner,” Brey said. “He made a big one last night. When he made the one on top against us, that’s the one that kind of said — now that’s the double pump one — that’s the nail in the coffin basically. Then you know not tonight for us. But he’s a fearless, physical, tough emotional leader. And he makes them go, very impressive.”
Ryan wouldn’t back down though and answered immediately, putting the Irish back within 8. Ryan then made two free throws, and a full-court press from the Irish forced a Hokie timeout at 1:04.
Hubb made a layup after Ryan grabbed a rebound off a free throw from Sean Pedulla. Pedulla went to the line again, but this time drained both. Point guard Hunter Cattoor also drained his two free throws at the close before Hubb answered with a layup and returned the gap to 6 with 28.6 seconds to go.
The Hokie free throw percentage seemed to be the Irish’s kryptonite though as they could not get within five despite a deep three from Hubb.
The Irish ultimately fell to the Hokies 87-80 and are out of the ACC Tournament. Still, Brey said the team will get together at his house this weekend as Selection Sunday decides the fate of their season.