The Virginia Tech Hokies (8-10, 0-5) have struggled to stay competitive in ACC play thus far in Buzz Williams' first season in Blacksburg, and Thursday night was no different as the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (18-2, 6-1) handled them with ease.
The game was seldom in doubt, as unlike the last couple games, the Irish got off to a fast start with a couple quick threes and 6 early points from Zach Auguste, who returned to the starting lineup. After jumping out to a quick lead, Notre Dame never let the Hokies threaten to actually win this one.
Jerian Grant was really the star of the show, as he absolutely controlled the run of play all night. He got to wherever he wanted on the court and had that sixth sense he often has to find the best shot for teammates or for himself. His stat sheet was predictably full by the final buzzer, with 18 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 2 blocks.
The Irish were only up ten at the half after an occasionally disinterested 20 minutes but really turned up the heat in the second half, especially on the offensive end. They were excellent on the fast break, lit it up from three, and found their moments to work it inside and attack the basket. The second half was very similar to that against Purdue, allowing Mike Brey to empty the bench with just over two minutes left.
Grant's excellence was just about matched by fellow senior Pat Connaughton, who tallied a double-double with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Connaughton was joined in double-figures by Auguste (16 points) and Demetrius Jackson (12 points).
The Irish defense held Virginia Tech to 39 percent from the floor, but the Hokies did see good games from point guard Devin Wilson (11 points on 5 of 8 shooting) and highly-touted freshman Ahmed Hill (13 points, 5 rebounds).
Notre Dame will be back on the road Sunday evening to take on the North Carolina State Wolfpack (13-6, 4-2) in Raleigh, where they knocked off then-undefeated Duke nearly two weeks ago. The game will be at 6:30 pm EST and featured on ESPNU.
Other Thoughts and Observations:
- The roster Buzz Williams was left with is abysmal. He's a good coach and I think he will get that thing turned around, but James Johnson and a series of post-firing transfers left him with nothing. Buzz is already bringing in more talent, but it still might take a couple years. I suggest he calm down on the sidelines, though. That gets old really quickly.
- V.J. Beachem was just brutal tonight, but glad to see he used up his worst game of the season for this one. An 0 for 10 night is tough to bounce back from, so it should be interesting to see him on Sunday.
- Steve Vasturia fouled out late in the game, but he did a lot of great things in this one, including a key putback with time running down in the first half. A quiet 7-5-4 line with some really good defense that should go appreciated.
- Good to see Martinas Geben have a nice few minutes of work late with the game in hand. We've all gotten on his case quite a bit this year, but he made some nice plays.
- The Irish outrebounded the Hokies by 12, so a good night for those worried about this team's supposed Achilles' heel.
- Notre Dame also assisted on 19 of their 29 field goals. They blocked 5 shots. They only turned it over 6 times. They played pretty well is all I am trying to say.
- It had been awhile since the Irish really took it to their opponent, and tonight set up perfectly for just that. Great job blowing out an inferior conference opponent, on the road no less.