Men’s basketball falls to Notre Dame in ACC Quarterfinals
Virginia awaits Selection Sunday for March Madness seeding
The No. 6 seed Virginia men’s basketball team dropped a tough game to No. 3 seed Notre Dame in the quarterfinals of the ACC Tournament Thursday night, 58-71.
Virginia (22-10, 11-7 ACC) had a tough time making shots against the lockdown defense of the Fighting Irish (24-8, 12-6 ACC). On the defensive end, the Cavaliers were out-hustled by Notre Dame, allowing the Irish to score several easy points.
“We weren’t as sound as we’ve been in the past,” coach Tony Bennett said. “Notre Dame guarded us hard … you could see they were looking forward to playing us.”
Notre Dame seemed fired up from the start, as it looked to get its first win against Virginia since joining the ACC.
The Cavaliers could not get shots to fall in the first half, while Notre Dame got off to a hot start from the floor. After junior guard Devon Hall made the opening basket for Virginia, the Fighting Irish went on a 10-0 run — which included five points from junior forward Bonzie Colson.
The Cavaliers continued to miss shots until junior guard Darius Thompson checked in from the bench. Thompson hit 3-of-4 of his attempts from downtown in the half to keep Virginia within striking distance.
Momentum began to shift the Cavaliers’ way when a layup by sophomore forward Jared Reuter cut Notre Dame’s lead to four with under two minutes remaining in the half. However, a questionable foul committed by freshman guard Ty Jerome on the defensive end gave the Fighting Irish two crucial free throws with only three seconds remaining on their shot clock.
Virginia went into the half trailing 26-32. In the first frame, the team shot 5-for-10 from beyond the arc, but only 10-for-26 collectively. Notre Dame, conversely, made 52.2 percent of its shots in the first half, and Colson went into the intermission with 11 points. Freshman guard Kyle Guy — who had 11 points at the half of Virginia’s win against Pittsburgh — went into the half scoreless.
Virginia came out flat following the break, allowing Notre Dame to go on an 11-0 run to start the second frame. Although the Cavaliers got a lift from junior guard Marial Shayok — who delivered six-straight points off the bench — Notre Dame’s offense continually responded, driving on Virginia’s interior defense several times for physical layups.
“It all starts with our defense, and we weren’t right from the jump,” senior guard London Perrantes said. “It kind of dug us a hole.”
Perrantes and Guy were ice cold from downtown, making no threes between them the entire game. The Fighting Irish were very effective in neutralizing Guy, who made none of his eight shot attempts and only had one try from beyond the arc.
“All I want these guys [to do] is get quality shots,” Bennett said. “[That is] not going to change for us — it’s just doing it a little bit better and taking care of the ball.”
Virginia began to foul with a little under three minutes left and pulled within 10 before redshirt freshman forward Mamadi Diakite got called for a flagrant foul against junior guard Matt Farrell. The Cavaliers then took pressure off and let the clock run out.
Hall and Thompson led the Cavaliers with 12 points each on a night where the team shot only 38.6 percent from the floor. Jerome and Shayok chipped in 10 points each, while Perrantes was held to only three points due to the stifling defense of the Fighting Irish.
Colson posted a double-double for Notre Dame with 21 points and 10 rebounds — both game-highs. The First-Team All-ACC junior flourished with the absence of Virginia junior forward Isaiah Wilkins, who played only 14 minutes while battling an illness. Without Wilkins anchoring Virginia’s defense, it looked lost at times.
“[Wilkins] is such a big part of our energy on defense, and he just wasn’t right … he had some tough matchups,” Bennett said.
Virginia now waits for its seeding in the NCAA Tournament, which will be revealed Sunday. The Cavaliers are a sure lock for the Big Dance. However, a mid-season losing streak and the quick out in the ACC Tournament will likely preclude the team from a top-three seed.
“We’ve got a little bit of time now,” Bennett said. “We recover [and] rest, but we prepare as well as we can in practice. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’ve done, keep battling and have a great prep.”
The Cavaliers will look to put this tough loss behind them and prepare for the final push during the NCAA men’s basketball tournament next week.