No. 19 Va. Tech wades into trap game against Irish

NCAA Basketball

Virginia Tech trailed throughout the second half of Wednesday’s narrow loss at Louisville.

But instead of sulking about the end of a four-game winning streak, the No. 19 Hokies vowed to make their 73-71 defeat the catalyst for a turnaround, beginning with Sunday’s game against visiting Notre Dame.

“Buckle up for safety,” Hokies coach Mike Young said. “Nothing easy. … But I really like my team. I really like the direction of my team. We’re going to play better on Sunday.”

After falling short in its first road game of the season, Virginia Tech (8-2, 2-1 ACC) will return to its home floor, where the Hokies are 6-1 to begin the campaign.

With a visit from No. 21 Duke looming on Tuesday, Virginia Tech must be careful not to overlook the Fighting Irish (3-6, 0-3), who will have been idle for more than a week by the time tipoff arrives.

Notre Dame has lost two straight and four of five. The team’s most recent defeat came Jan. 2 at North Carolina, as Leaky Black hit a go-ahead jumper with 9.1 seconds to play to lift the Tar Heels to a 66-65 victory.

“This early in the season, we have a lot of opportunities. We can’t hang our heads,” Notre Dame’s Nate Laszewski said. “There’s always another chance.”

The Fighting Irish, who led for almost 28 minutes, shined from behind the arc, paced by a career-high seven makes on 11 attempts from Laszewski. Laszewski narrowly missed a double-double, contributing 25 points and nine rebounds and scoring 11 straight points over one stretch.

In the past two games, Laszewski has scored 53 points on 17-for-25 shooting, including 11-for-18 from long range.

The game against the Tar Heels was scheduled on New Year’s Eve and played two days later. Notre Dame was set to play Georgia Tech on Wednesday, but the game was postponed due to COVID-19 concerns in the Georgia Tech program.

Notre Dame attempted to schedule a nonconference game against Western Michigan for the same day, to no avail. Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey said the team was “living day-to-day in this cancellation/reschedule stuff.”

Despite a solid start, the Hokies struggled to keep pace with Louisville, which dictated the tempo on both ends of the floor. After trailing 36-31 at the break, Virginia Tech outscored the Cardinals 40-37 after halftime, but ultimately couldn’t recover from starting the second half 1-for-11 from the floor.

Overall, the Hokies shot 42.6 percent, including 9-for-30 from 3-point range.

After Louisville’s David Johnson split a pair of free throws with 5.5 seconds to go, the Hokies got the defensive rebound and pushed the ball to Hunter Cattoor, who missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.

“Hunter took a great shot,” Virginia Tech’s Jalen Cone said. “I’m sure if you give him that shot five more times, he’ll make the next four.”

Notre Dame leads the all-time series against Virginia Tech 9-4, but six of the schools’ past seven meetings have been decided by single digits.

–Field Level Media

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