After jumping out to a 19-point lead in the first half, No. 20 Notre Dame held on for a 76-71 victory over Virginia Tech Saturday.
The Irish jumped out of the gates hot and put together a 21-2 run to take control of the game midway through the first half. The Hokies steadily chipped away at the lead and eventually took a one-point lead with two minutes remaining. The game was becoming reminiscent of the Villanova and Purdue collapses of early this year.
But this time, like they have in every conference game this season, ND answered the bell. The Irish had their backs against the wall, but again made clutch plays in the final two minutes to earn their third straight road win and snap Virginia Tech’s 15-game home winning streak.
With the win and Florida State’s loss to UNC Saturday, the Irish now sit alone atop the ACC standings at 5-0.
— Notre Dame MBB (@NDmbb) January 14, 2017
– The fast start was a welcomed surprise. In recent years, the Irish have struggled to find their rhythm, especially on offense, in ACC road games.
– Rex Pfleuger continues to emerge as an offensive threat. The sophomore made his mark on defense last season, but he is becoming a bigger threat from the perimeter.
– T.J. Gibbs provided a spark Saturday with a career-high 13 points and three rebounds. It is getting harder and harder for Mike Brey to keep the freshman off the floor.
– Gibbs wasn’t the only contributor off the bench. Torres, Pfleuger, and Gibbs combined to go 9-14 from the floor.
– V.J. Beachmen continues to struggle. Beachem did hit a clutch shot to put the Irish up three in the final minute, but his shot is way off. He was 2-8 from the floor and 0-4 from three with many of those looks going uncontested. Credit to Beachem, he still finds way to contribute as the senior grabbed three rebounds and tallied two blocks.
– The trend of the Irish jumping out to big leads and holding on for dear life in the second half seems to be here to stay. However, the quick turnaround after the Miami game could be attributed to the fatigue in the second half Saturday. ND looked like they were moving in quick sand on offense at times and their 13-20 performance at the charity stripe is further evidence of a tired squad.
– Notre Dame’s zone continues to give opponents fits. The Hokies were not hitting their shots and Brey’s strategy of chasing them off the three-point line worked. Virginia Tech is one of the best shooting teams in the ACC and Brey felt if ND could keep the Hokies to single digit three-pointers, they could win, and he was right – Va Tech only converted five three-pointers in the contest.
– Matt Farrell’s steal with Virginia Tech rolling the ball up in the final minute is the perfect embodiment of who he is as a player. That kind of hustle and the ability to make winning plays on both ends of the floor is why he is one of the most improved players in the country.
– Colson bounced back from a subpar gave vs. Miami with a return to his all-conference form. The junior notched his 11th double-double of the season with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Colson has registered at least 10 rebounds in every ACC game this season.
– Right now, Steve Vasturia is the ACC Player of the Year. The senior recorded 20 points, four rebounds, and four assists Saturday. His ability to shoot and drive the ball keeps the defense honest and his ability to guard the opposing team’s best players provides Brey with an incredible weapon.
– I would expect the Irish to jump into the top-10 in this week’s AP Poll. The Irish have five wins over teams in the RPI’s top-50 and are 5-0 in the toughest conference in the country.
Saturday’s win sets up a huge showdown with Florida State Wednesday in Tallahassee. Stay tuned to The Otter Room this week for a complete preview of Wednesday’s game with the Seminoles.