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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame falls 82-55 to No. 3 Virginia, faces No. 2 Duke next

For a team that has been skidding as of late, things did not improve Saturday afternoon for Notre Dame as they fell 82-55 to No. 3 Virginia. It marks the fourth-straight Irish (11-9, 1-6 ACC) loss in a contest that quickly got out of hand in the opening minutes.

Early in the first half, it was Virginia (18-1, 6-1 ACC) that set the pace as they often took 20-plus seconds with their offensive possessions matched with stout defense on the other end. Scoring has been a bit of a struggle for the Irish this season, and this held true again as the Cavaliers kept Notre Dame off the board until the 13:35 mark of the first half. A double-digit lead for Virginia held for much of the first half as they went into the break up 42-25.

Annie Smierciak
Irish junior forward John Mooney backs his defender down into the lane during Notre Dame's 55-82 loss to Virginia on Jan. 26 at Purcell Pavilion.

After the game, Irish head coach Mike Brey noted the difficulty of starting off slow against a team of Virginia’s caliber.

“It was really disappointing. We have some younger guys who haven’t experienced this before, and it’s really demoralizing,” Brey said. “It’s one of those where we’ll have to compete in practice tomorrow, really go after it and fight a little bit in practice to see if we can get that back before [Duke] comes to town.”

In the second half, Notre Dame showed a bit of fight in them as they mustered a bit of a comeback around the fifteen minute mark. A pair of 3-pointers from junior forward John Mooney followed by a 3-pointer from sophomore guard D.J. Harvey cut the deficit to twelve, the closest the game had been since early in the first half. Unfortunately for the Irish, Virginia came out of a timeout to create distance, going up by as much as 30 points. While there were not many positives for the Irish on the day, Mooney once again posted a solid performance, putting up 15 points and 10 rebounds to secure his ACC-leading 12th double-double of the season.

With the 55 point performance by Notre Dame, Virginia still averages the lowest points allowed in the nation at 52.6 points per game. Freshman guard Dane Goodwin commented afterwards about what makes the Cavalier defense so difficult.

“We knew that coming in that obviously they are one of best defensive units in the country. We have to find ways to get around that and we can’t make excuses,” Goodwin said. “We have to adapt and change, and that was a struggle for us today as they took away some of our main options.”

With Saturday’s outcome being less than desirable, Notre Dame will have to move on soon and prepare for another difficult matchup when No. 2 Duke comes to Purcell Pavilion on Monday night. Brey was asked afterwards about his team’s mindset heading into this next game, and he recognizes that if his team doesn’t make some changes and come prepared to compete, they could be in for another long day.

“I’m just trying to approach 8 a.m. practice tomorrow right now. I think we need to have some juices flowing and some competition at 8 a.m. tomorrow, and then we’ll talk about those other guys coming to town,” Brey said. “If you’re not ready to compete, you’re going to take another big punch. What would help us, and it helps any college team … is to see the ball go in the basket early in the game, and we couldn’t do that today for a while. We need a couple of things to happen for us offensively, and we’re going to need that Monday. In other words, a good offensive start makes you believe a little.”

Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. Monday evening as the Irish hope to bring an end to their recent losing streak.