Early on, it looked like Virginia Tech would take care of business. No. 20 Notre Dame started 7-of-19 from the field and 1-of-17 from deep in the first quarter. The Hokies built a seven-point lead halfway through the period and looked to capture the momentum.
By the end of the quarter, the cushion was gone. Seven seconds into the second period, Sam Brunelle drilled a 3-pointer for the Irish, and Tech never tied the game again. Sure, VT has been a streaky team in recent years, but it’s rare to see head coach Kenny Brooks’ squad struggle to score the basketball this season.
A six-point, 2-of-14 shooting second quarter was the figurative nail in the coffin in Virginia Tech’s (15-6, 7-3 ACC) 68-55 loss to Notre Dame (18-4, 9-2 ACC) on Thursday night in South Bend, Ind.
Outside of the second quarter, the Hokies kept pace with the Fighting Irish, and they were only outscored by three points in the second half.
Playing its first game since last week’s blowout win over Virginia, Virginia Tech leaned on the 3-point shooting it had with Georgia Amoore and Aisha Sheppard, who combined for nine threes. But Thursday on the road, the same usual production wasn’t there. The Hokies’ guards had an off-night, combining to shoot 1-of-7 from deep.
Winner’s in four of its previous five games, Virginia Tech moved up from a No. 7 seed to a No. 6 seed in Charlie Creme’s Tuesday ESPN bracketology. A win against another ranked opponent would have certainly helped shoot the Hokies to a higher seed with a resume booster.
The Irish, though, had other ideas. They used VT’s struggles in the second quarter to head into the half with a 34-24 advantage behind three treys. Notre Dame also had a strong interior presence in the paint and boxed out Elizabeth Kitley, who returned to the starting lineup after leaving last week’s game with an injury.
The return didn’t go as planned for the Wooden Award watchlist center. She only scored eight baskets on 3-of-10 shooting, but showed some confidence in her range. Kitley launched two 3-pointers in the loss — something Brooks has said he’s wanted to see more of this season.
After struggling right before halftime, the Hokies found their footing out of the break and kept pace with Notre Dame. However, they still trailed by 12 points heading into the final quarter.
That’s where Olivia Miles took over. The Irish’s 5-foot-10 freshman guard torched Virginia Tech for nine points in the second half. Each time the Hokies scored, Notre Dame countered.
Tech was outscored in the final period, 20-19, but showed fight on offense to keep the game close — the Hokies just couldn’t slow down the Irish outburst.
They also couldn’t stop turning the ball over. Virginia Tech lost it 18 times compared to the Irish’s 13. Bad passes and tough Notre Dame defense made it difficult for the Hokies to find an open shot on the perimeter or even in the paint, despite Kitley’s 6-foot-6 frame.
But VT has proven to be no joke this season on the ACC gauntlet this year. Off to its best start in ACC play in program history, Tech took down a ranked Duke team twice earlier in the season. Thursday just seemed to be another bump in the road.
Which, to the surprise of no one, there were always destined to be a few of those when building a contender, anyway.
Box score: Link