Virginia Throttles Irish in Second Half

Before tonight, Notre Dame was 12–0 at home this season and had found it easy to score points everywhere. Don’t let the relative ease with which it came fool you: this was a big win over a good, well-coached team.

This was the best defensive game Virginia has played in a while. Notre Dame had difficulty finding open looks from the outset and got nothing in transition, scoring .86 per possession for the game (not cracking 1.00 in either half) and getting just seven points from our 11 turnovers. The Irish couldn’t get into their offense without finding five Virginia defenders set up and waiting, and their pretty, fast-moving offense ground to a sludgy halt against our lengthy perimeter defenders and quick hedges. The Irish — who assisted on 61% of their baskets coming in — got just nine dimes on 20 baskets tonight, subsisting mostly on ISOs. If it wasn’t for Bonzie Colson (who converted me) bullying his way over, around, and through various defenders for 14 in the first half, this one may have been over before it was.

The three pointer — which comprised almost 40% of their points for the season and was a big possible pain point coming in — accounted for just nine Irish points tonight, as the combo of aggressive closeouts and some good old fashioned luck held them to three of 18. V.J. Beachem, who was 10–15 from behind the arc in the two games previous, went 0–5, failing to dial in some good looks.

I was nervous with a one point lead at halftime after it felt like we left opportunities to extend the lead (three missed layups, three missed Guy threes, the travels) on the table in the first half, but the one player I trust to calm things down and the player I trust him to teach to calm things down broke this one open midway through the second half. After Steve Vasturia (the last Notre Dame player I wanted taking a big shot) missed a three to tie, London canned one to put us up six, then another moments later after a Rex Pflueger basket to make it eight. Ty Jerome then took the reigns for a few minutes, hitting two dagger threes (one an open look from the corner where it looked like he was fouled, the other where he used his height to just stick it on his defender), making a runner, and then using a nifty little drive to draw the defense and free London for yet another three, his fifth and final of the evening. It was like this scraggly beard he’s growing suddenly aged him on the court. The rest of the game was free throws and garbage time.

Welcome to the show.

If you’re keeping score, London is now 21–39 on threes in ACC play, and has hit at least four (and scored at least 20 points) three times in our last five games. This is the Alpha Dog London that I signed up for. He’s been largely incredible since the ball dropped.

Lots of guys impacted this one positively. Isaiah Wilkins and Devon Hall were each one rebound away from a double-double, leading a team-wide dominant effort on the glass (93.3% of defensive boards, a third of our own misses) and helping us survive long stretches of small ball. Wilkins even attacked the front of the rim with the ball in the second half and went nine of 10 from the line. Marial hit for double digits again and had three steals. Darius had a team-high five assists in 21 minutes, continuing to show an eagerness to distribute off the dribble that was lacking last year. Jack Salt had three offensive boards and painted this defensive masterpiece:

There were some strange lineup pairings (and the continuing confusing choice of Reuter over Diakite), but CTB made up for them by riding the London/Hall/Jerome trio at the end. It’s hard to complain about much.

Villanova is up next, fresh off a loss to Marquette tonight.