SOUTH BEND — The more mature players and the younger coach of the Virginia Tech Hokies won out in the long run in a matchup with the youthful players and veteran coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The older and more physical Hokies used those qualities to dominate the boards, especially on the offensive side of things in a 67-59 ACC men’s college basketball victory Saturday evening at Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center on the Notre Dame campus.
It was the third straight league loss for the Irish, who fall to 13-14 overall, 3-11 in the ACC. The Hokies improved to 21-6, 10-5.
“They are grown men. We have tough, physical matchups with Virginia Tech and over 40 minutes that takes it’s toll,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “You can see it in the offensive rebounding, the more physical guy usually gets the ball.”
The Hokies controlled the boards with a 49-27 advantage, including 18-9 on the offensive glass. Those 18 offensive boards led to 15 second-chance points for the winners.
“We gave up too many second shots. The Hokies were older and mentally tougher,” Brey added.
Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams is in his fifth season at the school and his 12th overall while Brey in his 19th at Notre Dame and 23rd overall.
“Coach Brey is a hero of mine,” Williams said. “Ten of my 12 seasons coaching have been in the same league as him and every year I have voted for him as Coach of the Year. “He does not have the team he was expecting and has been forced to play a lot younger players.”
Williams shared where his admiration for Brey comes from.
“When I was a sophomore in college I sat down with a legal pad and wrote letters to 425 coaches. He was one of 12 that answered me,” Williams said. “Whenever I wrote him he would always write back.
“Football is big at Notre Dame, but the school could not have a better ambassador for basketball than coach Brey. He is always so positive and he is changing kids lives by preaching hope.”
Brey remembers receiving the first letter from Williams.
“The letter impressed me and we stayed in touch. We hang out at the ACC meetings. I’m kind of a big brother to him,” Brey said.
Williams has a 2-4 record against Notre Dame in his tenure at Virginia Tech.
The Irish got off to a slow start and fell behind 11-2 when redshirt junior Kerry Blackshear drained a 3-pointer at 13:44 of the opening half. Notre Dame continued to struggle on offense and by 10:31 of the first half only had seven points on the scoreboard, a basket and two free throws by junior Juwan Durham and three freebies by classmate Prentiss Hubb. The Irish began chipping away at the deficit and when freshman Nate Laszewski swished a trey the Hokies’ lead was down to 25-21 with 3:10 remaining before intermission. Tech was up 30-23 at halftime.
Notre Dame got to with in five points (39-34) on a basket by Laszewski with 11:35 left to play. The Hokies then pulled away for good with a 14-4 run that extended the lead to 30-38 at 6:24 of the second half.
Blackshear tossed in a game-high 22 points for the Hokies. He was 7-of-12 shooting (1-of-2 from beyond the arc) and 7-of-10 from the free-throw line.
“Blackshear is so integral to everything we do on both ends of the floor,” Williams said. “He was exhausted at the end of the game.”
The Irish were topped in scoring by junior T.J. Gibbs with 18 points. Junior John Mooney and Laszewski both chipped in with 12 points.
Mooney had a double-double as he also had 10 rebounds.
“Mooney is one of the most improved players in the ACC,” Williams said.
Greg Keim can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 326. Follow Greg on Twitter @gkeim_TGN
Virginia Tech 67, Notre Dame 59
VIRGINIA TECH — Wabiassa Bede 2-7 2-2 6, Nickel Alexander-Walker 2-7 7-7 12, Ahmed Hill 3-12 1-2 8, Kerry Blackshear 7-12 7-10 22, Ty Outlaw 2-6 4-6 9, Isaiah Wilkins 2-3 3-4 8, Jonathan Kabongo 0-1 0-0 0, P.J. Harris 1-3 0-0 2. Team: 19-52 24-31 67
NOTRE DAME — Prentiss Hubb 1-8 0-5 2, DJ. Harvey 3-9 0-0 7, T.J. Gibbs 5-17 5-6 18, Nikola Djogo 0-2 0-0 0, John Mooney 5-10 2-2 12, Juwan Durham 1-1 4-4 6, Nate Laszewski 4-9 2-2 12, Dane Goodwin 0-2 2-2 2. Team: 19-58 15-16 59
Virginia Tech 30 37 — 67
Notre Dame 23 36 — 59
3-point goals: Virgina Tech 5-18 (Wilkins 1-1, Blackshear 1-2, Alexander-Walker 1-3, Ahmed 1-4, Outlaw 1-4, Kabongo 0-1, Bede 0-3); Notre Dame 6-26 (Gibbs 3-10, Laszewski 2-6, Harvey 1-3, Djogo 0-1, Mooney 0-1, Hubb 0-5). Fouls (fouled out): Virginia Tech 18, Notre Dame 25 (Harvey). Rebounds: Virginia Tech 49 (Blackshear 14, Bede 8, Wilkins 7); Notre Dame 27 (Mooney 10, Goodwin 4, Harvey 4). Assists: Virginia Tech 8 (Bede 3, Blackshear 3); Notre Dame 9 (Hubb 7). Steals: Virginia Tech 5 (Bede 3), Notre Dame 9 (Gibbs 3, Mooney 2). Turnovers: Virginia Tech 16, Notre Dame 10.