The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s basketball team kicked off their 2022 ACC Tournament showing with a one-and-done effort Thursday night, losing to the Virginia Tech Hokies by a final score of 87 to 80 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Irish were led on the night by Prentiss Hubb, who scored 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting and dished out 5 assists on the game. Other key contributions came from Cormac Ryan (20 points, 5 rebounds), Nate Laszewski (12 points, 10 rebounds), and Dane Goodwin (11 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists).
Star freshman Blake Wesley had a rough game, scoring just 9 points on 2-of-8 shooting while turning the ball over 3 times. Paul Atkinson Jr. had a tough go of it as well, scoring just 5 points and only grabbing 3 rebounds on the evening while turning it over 3 times himself.
Overall, Notre Dame as a team shot 53% from the field and 37% from long range while losing the turnover battle 12 to 6 and narrowly out-rebounding the Hokies 27-25.
The Hokies were paced in scoring on the evening by Keve Aluma (20 points, 2 rebounds), while Storm Murphy (16 points on 5-of-7 shooting), Nahiem Alleyne (12 points on 5-of-7 shooting), Justyn Mutts (11 points, 10 rebounds, 3 blocks), and Sean Pedulla (13 points) chipped in as well. Virginia Tech shot a blistering 57% from the floor overall and 37% from long range
The game began about as poorly as possible for the Irish, as Virginia Tech jumped out to a 7-0 lead and the Irish turned it over twice in their first two possessions, and by the first media timeout it hadn’t gotten much better, with the Hokies leading 12-4 and the Irish’s 4 turnovers giving Virginia Tech double the field goal attempts of ND.
From there, the Irish played super sloppy offense, turning the ball over 10 times in the first half while only making 25% (2-of-8) from long range and 43% from the field overall. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech continued building out their lead, shooting 50% overall and 40% from three and leading by as many as 16. However, a small run by ND in the final minutes did cut their deficit down to just 11, with the Hokies up 42-31 at the break.
In the second half, the two teams played pretty much even through the first ten minutes, as the Irish would get within 10 points only for Virginia Tech to immediately respond with a basket. Cormac Ryan scored the first 7 points of the half for the Irish, and then Laszewski got going a bit down low as well — but the Hokies always found a way to answer, still leading 56-46 at the under-12 timeout.
The Irish slowly chipped away at that deficit over the final 10 minutes, pulling within 5 points multiple times late, but multiple big threes in the final minutes by Storm Murphy and an inability for the Irish to string together stops and buckets to make it any closer meant that the Hokies were back up 11 with less than two minutes remaining. The Irish clawed their way back a bit thanks to some missed Hokie free throws and some Irish buckets, but in the end Virginia Tech was able to escape with the 7-point victory and advance to the semifinals on Friday night.
With the loss, the 2nd-seeded Irish will now have to sweat it out from now until Selection Sunday, as the loss certainly pushes them at least a bit further back toward the bubble. There’s still a strong chance they make the tournament, but it’s not out of the question that they end up as a play-in team in Dayton next week either. It all depends how other conference tournaments play out and how the bubble develops around them.