SOUTH BEND, In. – In its regular-season finale, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team could not make a comeback in the second half, as Notre Dame went on to claim the victory 64-56 on Saturday afternoon at Purcell Pavilion.
The Hokies (16-15, 7-13 ACC) were in search of a second straight win going into league tournament play and a fourth victory over the Fighting Irish (19-12, 10-10) in the last five outings, but came up short against Notre Dame by eight. The Irish were paced by senior T.J. Gibbs, who scored 22 points and hit five 3-pointers on senior day.
For the Hokies, P.J. Horne led the team in scoring with 14 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Freshman Hunter Cattoor added 12 points along with four triples. Junior Wabissa Bede dished out five assists, while guard Tyrece Radford had seven rebounds of his own with eight points in a near double-double effort.
Tech battled defensively, recording nine steals and forcing the Irish to commit a season-high 16 turnovers, which is tied for the fourth most an opponent has coughed up against the Hokies all season.
Along with Gibbs performance, the Irish received contributions from guard Dane Goodwin, who had a near double-double as well with 13 points and nine boards. Senior Rex Pflueger racked up seven points and eight rebounds.
But the key was how the Irish won down low, outscoring the Hokies in paint points 26-18 and outrebounded Tech 44-27.
Tech struggled on offense throughout the first, tying its second-lowest first-half score this season with 17.
Down the stretch with under a minute to go in the half, the Irish hit from downtown extending its lead to 28-15. Horne responded, sinking a jumper for Tech right as time expired, going into the break trailing 28-17.
Picking up the pace offensively, freshman Nahiem Alleyne came out in the second recording seven points and making the score 33-28 with just over 16 minutes left in the game.
With under 10 minutes of action remaining, John Mooney nailed a key three giving Notre Dame a 50-35 advantage. The Irish would hold off the Hokies and go on to win 64-56.
QUOTING MIKE YOUNG
On shooting woes: “Yeah, we didn’t shoot it very well and I’ve got a really good shooting team. I think Mike’s [Brey] bunch did some things that disrupted us and had us back on our heels a little bit. Certainly in the first 10 minutes, we took some shots that were head-scratchers because we get those shots down. But we didn’t today and that put a lot of pressure on our defense. I was blown away. I thought we fought like crazy in the first half to limit Notre Dame to 33 percent from the field and they had nine turnovers. They never turn the ball over. We had great numbers there but, unfortunately, we couldn’t make one on our end either. So, you go [into halftime] down 11 [points], which was disappointing. We had to hit a shot at the buzzer to get it to 11. So, better days ahead for the Hokies.”
- Horne had a team-high 14 points, which is the fourth time this season he has led Tech in scoring. Horne also tied his career high in 3s with four for the second straight game.
- Cattoor got to double figures in scoring for the ninth time this season with 12 points and hit four triples, which is tied for his second-most made in a game this year. Cattoor tied his career high in steals with three.
- Tech hit 10 triples, marking the third straight game it has reached double-figures in 3s made and the 15th time this season. - The Hokies collected nine steals, which is tied for the second-most steals in a game this season.
- Radford grabbed seven boards marking the 16th time this year he has seven or more rebounds in a game.
The Hokies will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, to compete in the ACC Tournament on March 10-14 with game times and dates still to be determined.