Virginia Runs Away From Irish

Author: Sean Stires

Connaughton_1The road is just not a friend of the Fighting Irish. Notre Dame ended its three-game road swing Saturday afternoon with a 70-49 loss to Virginia at John Paul Jones Arena. The Irish (14-14, 5-10 ACC) dropped two of three during the three games away from Purcell Pavilion to fall to 1-8 on the road this season, including 1-7 in ACC play.

Notre Dame trailed by 14 points early, but came back in the middle to take the lead before being dominated down the stretch in the loss. Meanwhile, Virginia (23-5, 14-1) set a school record for ACC wins in a season. They sit atop the conference standings with three games to play in the regular season.

The Cavaliers jumped out to a 19-7 lead just over eight minutes into the game thanks to a 14-0 run that saw the Irish go 0 for 6 from the floor in a drought that lasted more than six minutes. Steve Vasturia ended the scoreless streak with a 3 that bounced high off the rim before dropping through.

The Irish started 3 for 3 from the field, but hit six of their next eight shots to close within six points. Pat Connaughton led the Irish with 11 points and was Notre Dame’s only real offensive force early, hitting 3 of 5 shots including a pair of 3s in the first half. Connaughton finished just 4 of 11 from the field.

Sherman started 1 for 6, but his second bucket cut the Irish deficit to 26-22 with just under 3:00 to play in the first half. Back-to-back treys by V.J. Beachem and Demetrius Jackson tied the game at 28-28. The Irish closed the half on a 15-4 run to send the teams to the locker room tied at 30.

The Fighting Irish hit 9 of 12 shots from the field over the last 11-plus minutes of the half. They took their first lead at 32-30 on a layup by Eric Atkins to start the second half.

The Notre Dame run stretched to 19-4 across halves after a jumper by Austin Burgett. The two teams stayed even for the next several minutes, but a 17-3 run put the Cavaliers back up 55-43 with 8:00 to play. Virginia used a 25-0 run after the teams were tied 43-43 to put the game away.

The Irish missed 10 straight shots, while the Cavaliers made 10 in a row during the futile stretch. A layup by Atkins with 2:30 remaining finally ended the scoreless streak.

Tom Knight joined the starting lineup along with Connaughton, Garrick Sherman, Atkins and Steve Vasturia. It is the 10th different lineup Mike Brey has used to start a game this season.

Knight made his only shot to finish with two points. Sherman was 4 for 12 from the field for eight points. It is the fourth straight game he has been held out of double figures since breaking a finger on his shooting hand early in ND’s win over Clemson nearly two weeks ago.

Forwards Akil Mitchell and Anthony Gill led Virginia with 15 points each. Mitchell hit all seven of his shots in the game, including four in the first half to help the Cavs hit nearly 64% (28 for 44) from the field. Malcolm Brogdon scored 13 for UVA on 5 of 9 shooting. He hit a pair of 3s. Notre Dame shot just under 39% (21 for 54) from the floor.

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