The Irish needed a win tonight to, perhaps, build some momentum to turn around this ACC season. Coming off two straight bad losses, a nice road win to a big-named ACC opponent could do just the trick.
For twenty minutes, things were looking good for Notre Dame, who went into halftime up nine and appearing to need little more than cleaning up some turnover issues to pick up the victory. As they have done so many times before under Mike Brey, the Irish were in the driver's seat, taking back control of a seemingly lost season.
And just like that, the season was lost, this time probably for good.
The Irish scored just four points in the first ten minutes of the second half. Yes, that's right. Four. Eric Atkins did not even attempt a shot in that interval. Plenty of free throws were missed. The turnovers continued. Mike Brey earned a technical after a brutal stretch of referee work, which only seemed to exacerbate that problem from that point on.
And on top of that, Maryland found its stroke, or at least enough of what it needed, scoring 19 in that same time frame, evaporating a potent halftime deficit, and cruising to a relatively easy victory.
What transpired in the final ten minutes was never in doubt. The Irish never threatened to win the game but just pathetically hung around a game that they let slip through their fingers behind a wholly inept offense and some embarrassing rebounding efforts defensively.
Pat Connaughton led in scoring with 19 points, but only 4 of those came after halftime. Garrick Sherman was an efficient 9-12 from the field, but turned the ball over 6(!) times while "leading" a rebounding unit that yielded 20 offensive boards to the Terrapins. Those clamoring for more Zach Auguste in favor of Sherman, tonight was not your night either, as he turned in another lackluster effort that saw him on the wrong end of plenty of highlights. And Atkins failed to step up like he had in the past few games, scoring just 11 while turning it over 5 times.
There can be no positives tonight. Not on a night in which the Irish collapsed with their season turnaround on the line.
The Irish are now 1-3 in their new conference, a far cry from those few days of glory after beating Duke. A Jerian Grant-led Notre Dame squad is, in my estimation, sitting at 4-0 in conference play right now. But Jerian Grant is not walking through that door. Luckily, he is likely to be doing so next year. But in the meantime, Mike Brey and company need to figure out how to salvage the inaugural ACC season for Notre Dame basketball because right now, it is hard to see it as anything but an absolute program failure.
Notre Dame hosts Virginia Tech on Sunday at 6pm.