Men’s basketball takes on ACC foe No. 12 Notre Dame
Cavaliers look to hand Fighting Irish first home loss of season
The No. 12 Virginia men’s basketball team will travel to South Bend, Ind. Tuesday night as underdogs in a matchup against No. 14 Notre Dame.
When the two teams squared off last year in Charlottesville, it was the Cavaliers (15-3, 5-2 ACC) that emerged as winners, defeating the Fighting Irish (17-3, 6-1 ACC) by 11 points.
However, this year Notre Dame enters the game with the better record and home court advantage. Currently near the top of the ACC rankings and only losing three games to ranked opponents by eight points or fewer, Notre Dame is looking to go 13-0 at Purcell Pavilion with a win against the Cavaliers.
“Notre Dame's playing at an elite level,” coach Tony Bennett said. “Offensively, they're terrific … They'll be a great challenge, a great opportunity, and I told our guys, you've got to love the challenge.”
Most recently, the Fighting Irish hosted Syracuse Saturday, handing the Orange (11-9, 3-4 ACC) an 18-point loss. In the 84-66 win for Notre Dame, senior forward V.J. Beachem led the scoring with 30 points. The career high performance from Beachem brought his average points per game to 14.7.
Notre Dame’s two guards from New Jersey, junior Matt Farrell and senior Steve Vasturia, also scored in double figures, with 15 points for Farrell and 11 points for Vasturia. Farrell — averaging 14.3 points per game — has scored 10 or more points 16 times this season. Meanwhile Vasturia — averaging 15 points a game — has 17 games with double digit scoring. Vasturia is also .925 from the free throw line, while Notre Dame as a team is hitting close to 83 percent of their free throws.
Another offensive threat from the Irish comes from junior Bonzie Colson. The forward averages 15.4 points per game, 10.9 rebounds per game and also recorded his 12th double-double of the season Saturday. The current leader in the double-double category for the ACC, Colson managed to put up 14 points against the Cavaliers in last year’s game.
Virginia’s defense, which is holding teams to an average of 53.2 points per game, will have their hands full.
On the offensive front, Virginia will look to their leading scorer, senior point guard London Perrantes, to set the tone. Averaging 11.7 points per game this season, the fourth-year starter is looking to make his mark.
“I'm excited to go to battle with these guys and see what happens,” Perrantes said.
Perrantes also enters the game after recording his 1,000th point as a Cavalier, becoming the fourth player in Virginia basketball history to have 1,000 points and 500 assists.
“That guy has been a part of a lot of winning. That's impressive,” Bennett said. “His completeness and his steadiness, they've been so good. You saw that in him from his first year here, and that's no small thing … He is such a key to this team, and he makes big shots … What a three-and-a-half years that he's had — and we've got some more."
However, to beat a Notre Dame team that is averaging 81.2 points per game, Virginia will need to rely on more than just Perrantes for points.
One of Virginia’s key elements to offensive success has been the increasing scoring ability of junior guard Marial Shayok. The junior had 19 points in the Cavalier’s most recent game — a 62-49 win against Georgia Tech — and since earning his way into the starting lineup he has helped Virginia win four in a row.
“Marial is wired to score,” Bennett said. “He can score off the bounce. He can do some things [offensively that other Cavaliers can't]. That's just the way he is. His ability to put it on the floor, take those shots and create some offense is helping us.”
Freshman guard Kyle Guy, who is averaging 8.3 points per game, and junior guard Devon Hall, who is averaging 8.1 points per game, will also play an important role in securing a victory for Virginia.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday. Next, the Cavaliers have another difficult test on the road as they travel to Philadelphia, Pa. to take on the defending national champions, No. 1 Villanova.