Over a week after their last game (a 66-65 nail-biter loss at North Carolina on January 2nd), the Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team finally returned to action today, losing to the #19 Virginia Tech Hokies in Blacksburg by a final score of 77 to 63.
The Irish — whose game on Wednesday against Georgia Tech was postponed due to a positive COVID test in the Yellow Jackets program — were led on the day by Nate Laszewski, who had 17 points, 4 rebounds, and made 11-of-12 shots from the free throw line.
Other decent games were turned in by Dane Goodwin (12 points, 2/3 from deep), Cormac Ryan (10 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals), and Prentiss Hubb (9 points and 6 assists), although Hubb had 4 turnovers and 0 assists in the second half. Nik Djogo (4 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block) also chipped in a solid game as a new starter in this one.
The Irish shot 38% overall and 26% from long range, driven largely by a very poor second half of shooting, and lost the rebounding battle 42 to 28 while also losing the turnover battle 12 to 10.
As for the Hokies, their best players on the day were Jalen Cone (18 points, 4-of-10 from 3) and Keve Aluma (15 points, 12 rebounds), while Justyn Mutts (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Hunter Cattoor (15 points, 3-of-5 from 3) had nice little games as well. As a team, VaTech shot 45% from the field and 30% from 3, and were yet another opponent who absolutely embarrassed ND on the offensive glass — VT managed 16 offensive rebounds as part of that 42-rebound total.
The Irish played a fantastic first half with essentially the whole team getting involved, racing out to a 42-35 halftime lead behind 55% shooting from the field (39% from 3) and 8 different players scoring in the period. Dane Goodwin led the way with 10 points, while Cormac Ryan dropped in 8, Nate Laszewski and Juwan Durham each scored 6, Trey Wertz hit a three in his first playing time post-injury, and Prentiss Hubb looked every bit the great ACC point guard with 6 assists and just 1 turnover.
In the second half the Hokies clearly made some adjustments, starting the period on a 14-3 run to grab a 49-45 lead with about 14 minutes to play. From there, the Irish just could NOT manage to make a shot or get stops, constantly making bad decisions on offense and allowing copious amounts of Hokie offensive rebounds on defense.
The Irish scored just 21 points in the second half while making a pathetic 2 field goals on 19 shot attempts, and otherwise only scoring from the free throw line. ND’s last field goal was a Prentiss Hubb three-pointer with 12:15 left in the game, and the Hokies coasted down the stretch to a 77 to 63 victory.
Now 3-7 on the season and still winless in ACC play at 0-4, the Irish will play next on Wednesday, taking on the #22 Virginia Cavaliers in Charlottesville at 4:30 PM ET. Virginia defeated the Irish 66-57 at Purcell Pavilion in late December.