Photos by Kymn Davidson-Hamley
Virginia Tech rallied from a 19-point, first-half deficit to take the lead, but couldn’t hold on in falling to No. 20 Notre Dame 76-71 in an ACC game played at Virginia Tech Carilion Court on Saturday.
With the loss, Tech fell to 13-4 overall on the season, 2-3 in ACC play, and saw its 15-game home winning streak snapped. Notre Dame, which sits atop the ACC standings, moved to 16-2 overall, 5-0 in league play. The Irish have won seven straight games.
“The first thing I said to them [his players] is, ‘You had every reason to stop, and you didn’t, and you had every reason to win, and you didn’t,’” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I can’t remember the coach that said it – it was before I was born – but, ‘If that doesn’t take a pint of blood out of you, I don’t know what will.’ I think there was a lot of that.
“I hope that they grow. We grow – it’s not them, it’s us – from how hard it is to win a game and how hard it is to execute and play to the scouting report every single possession.”
Notre Dame jumped out to a 19-point lead in the first half by scoring on 11 of 13 possessions during one stretch. The Irish led by 14 with less than 13 minutes to go, but the Hokies went on a 19-5 run, tying the game at 59 on a basket by Justin Robinson with 6:23 left.
The Hokies took a 67-66 lead on a Chris Clarke three-point play with 1:52 remaining – their only lead of the game. But the Irish’s Matt Farrell gave Notre Dame a 68-67 lead on layup with 1:34 to go.
The Hokies then turned the ball over on back-to-back possessions, both of which led to Notre Dame baskets. TJ Gibbs’ layup with 41 seconds remaining gave the Irish a 72-67 lead, and Notre Dame, the nation’s best free-throw shooting team at 84.2 percent coming into this game, then made 4 of 8 in the final 28 seconds to hold off the Hokies.
“It just feels bad,” Tech forward Chris Clarke said. “I feel like we got out-toughed at the end, and we really take a lot of pride in that [being tough]. It’s just a big blow. We needed to win this game.”
Clarke led all scorers with 21 points. He also grabbed nine rebounds and dished out five assists for the Hokies, who shot 49.1 percent, but turned the ball over 13 times.
Tech also hurt itself at the free-throw line, where it made just 10 of 18.
“It’s disappointing because, in ACC games, you just can’t do that,” Tech guard Seth Allen said of the Hokies’ free-throw shooting. “In ACC games, you need every single point. Every point matters.”
Allen added 16 points for the Hokies, and Robinson finished with 14.
Vasturia paced the Irish with 20 points. Farrell and Bonzie Colson added 14 each for Notre Dame, which shot 51.9 percent from the floor.
— Courtesy of VT Athletics