No. 13 Irish struggles late vs. No. 3 Virginia, falls 62-56
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Notre Dame’s offense was no match for Virginia’s defense.
The 13th-ranked Fighting Irish, who entered the game leading the nation in field goal shooting at 54.8 percent, were held to a season-low 34 percent shooting, including going 1-of-5 from the floor in the final 3:59, falling 62-56 to No. 3 Virginia on Saturday night.
“They were really patient and got great looks every time down the floor,” said Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson, who finished with 12 points. “Whenever it was tied up, whenever it was it close, they had someone step up and knock a big shot in.”
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey hopes the Irish can learn a lesson from the Cavaliers.
“A good team got the better of us down the stretch. They played like a group that’s done it a little more than us at crunch time,” Brey said. “I’m hoping in a month, we’re maybe more like them and we can be really poised like them in crunch time.”
After Notre Dame’s Jerian Grant tied it with 4 minutes left, Justin Anderson hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 9-0 run. The Cavaliers pressured the Irish into missing their final four shots and also forced a turnover and got a break when Grant missed the front end of a one-and-one.
It wasn’t just defense, though. Virginia hit the clutch shots it needed. The Cavaliers made just five 3-pointers, but hit three in the final 6 minutes. The final 3-pointer by Justin Anderson gave the Cavaliers the 56-53 lead. Brogdon followed with a layup to extend the lead to five. Anderson then made a pair of free throws with 21 seconds left and Brogdon added two more free throws with 9 seconds left.
“We had to hang in there, make some big shots, get some key stops against a team that can go on spurts,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett said. “That was a good win for us.”
The Cavaliers (15-0, 4-0 ACC) improved their record against the Irish (15-2, 3-1) to 8-1 and. The loss ended Notre Dame’s 11-game winning streak.
Darion Atkins led the Cavaliers with 14 points and eight rebounds. Brogdon finished with 13 points and did a good job of holding Grant, who was averaging 17.3 points a game, to six points on 2-of-8 shooting. Anderson finished with 11 points.
“They made big jump shots there when they had to to kind of give them some space,” Brey said. “They played like a team that’s won a (league) championship.”
Brogdon said he though Virginia’s experience was key.
“I thought me and Justin helped get it under control because I thought we rushed a little in the first half,” he said. “Overall, I thought Darion was the ‘X’ factor tonight. I thought he was terrific at both ends with them super-active scoring, giving us buckets when we needed them.”
Brey said the Irish big men simply missed too many shots inside.
“We had the ball around the bucket for some layups and we didn’t convert them,” Brey said.
Pat Connaughton, who led the Irish with 21 points and eight rebounds, said the Irish never got into an offensive rhythm.
“We’re at our best when everyone’s producing, the ball’s moving. We never got into that rhythm,” he said.
Virginia: Notre Dame became the 39th straight team the Cavaliers have held to under 50 percent shooting from the field.
Notre Dame: The loss ended a streak of five straight wins for the Irish at Purcell Pavilion against Top 10 teams, including Duke last season, Kentucky and Syracuse in 2012, Connecticut in 2011 and Georgetown in 2010. ... The Irish fell to 13-7 at home under Notre Dame coach Mike Brey against Top 10 teams.
SECOND HALF SURGE
After being outscored 10-8 in the paint in the first half, the Cavaliers outscored the Irish 18-10 inside in the second half. Virginia shot 58 percent in the second half after shooting 40 percent in the first half.
Brey’s teams historically have done poorly against teams coached by Bennett. Washington State beat the Irish 61-41 in the second round of the NCAA tournament and the Cavaliers beat Notre Dame the 68-53 and 70-49 in two games last season. The 62-56 game was the first time the Irish were competitive.
Virginia: hosts Clemson on Tuesday.
Notre Dame: at Georgia Tech on Wednesday.