Date: Sunday, January 10
TV: The ACC Network
After coming up short against Louisville on Wednesday, No. 19 Virginia Tech (8-2, 2-1) looks to bounce back against Notre Dame (3-6, 0-3) on Sunday in Cassell Coliseum.
The series history doesn’t favor the Hokies as Notre Dame has won nine of 12 matchups between the two schools since 2001. Tech actually didn’t beat the Irish from 2001 until 2018 when the Hokies finally won in South Bend. Including that game, Tech has won three of the last five against the Irish.
Notre Dame did have the edge last year in Mike Young’s first season in Blacksburg. Tech traveled up to Indiana in its season finale and came up short, 64-56. Senior T.J. Gibbs led the way for Notre Dame with 22 points, including five three-pointers.
The Fighting Irish haven’t started this season the way they would have liked. However, their record may be deceiving considering the tough opponents they’ve faced. Notre Dame’s three non-conference losses all came against Big Ten opponents, and the Irish’s three conference losses have come to Duke, Virginia and North Carolina, three of the top four teams in the ACC preseason poll.
Notre Dame does have one signature win on their resume this season. Kentucky may be just 3-6 on the season, but the Irish went into Lexington and came out with a win in early December. That win is their only major victory this season.
The story of the season for the Irish has been the lights out shooting of junior forward Nate Lazsewski. He currently is second in the ACC from long range, shooting at a 59% clip from beyond the arc. He’s turned his hot shooting into 17.2 points per game. With his six-foot-ten frame and smooth stroke from deep, he’ll be a tough match-up for the Hokies on Sunday.
Tech won’t have to deal with Santa Clara transfer Trey Wertz, who injured his left ankle against Virginia just before the new year. Wertz exploded for 27 points in just his second game with the Irish against Purdue.
Running the show for Notre Dame is junior guard Prentiss Hubb. He leads the Irish in assists with just under five per game and is second on the team in scoring at 14.8 points per game. The good news for the Hokies is that Hubb struggled to take care of the basketball last year when these teams matched up. He turned the ball over five times against Tech’s defense last March.
For the Hokies, they’ll be looking to have a more consistent outing offensively than they did against Louisville. After opening the game with an 11-0 run, Tech had just one field goal over the next 12 minutes of game time. The Hokies were able to muster enough scoring to come back from a 14-point deficit, but fell short at the buzzer.
The offensive bright spot for Tech on Wednesday was sophomore guard Jalen Cone. He came off of the bench and poured in 23 points, including six three-pointers. Cone made it look easy despite many contested shots from long-range and proved to be one of the Hokies’ most dangerous offensive threats.
Tech will hope for a better performance from Keve Aluma, who struggled versus the Cardinals with just 11 points on 3-10 shooting. He’ll have an opportunity to succeed on the boards considering the Irish rank 272nd in rebound margin this season. With Notre Dame’s struggles on the glass, the Hokies should have opportunities for second chance points.
At 2-1 in the conference, the Hokies will try to stay above .500 and rebound from the tough loss to Louisville. However, this is a desperate Notre Dame team coming in trying to earn its first conference win of the year. If Tech can’t pull this one out, they would enter Tuesday night’s matchup with Duke having lost two in a row.