Jan. 14, 2017
By Robby Hamman
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Notre Dame (16-2, 5-0 ACC) continues to find ways to win in the ACC. The Irish got crucial plays from V.J. Beachem and Matt Farrell in the game’s final minute to go along with Steve Vasturia’s team-high 20 points en route to a huge 76-71 win over Virginia Tech (13-4, 2-3 ACC) on the road.
The Irish are an undefeated 5-0 in the ACC and winners of seven straight contests. The 5-0 conference start is the best in Notre Dame program history, regardless of league. With Florida State’s loss at North Carolina on Saturday, the Irish are now in sole possession of first place in the ACC standings. The win also snaps Virginia Tech’s 15-game home winning streak just two days after the team ended Miami’s 21-game winning streak.
Vasturia paced the Irish with 20 points, going 8-of-14 from the field. Farrell and Colson each added 14 points and freshman guard T.J. Gibbs scored a career-high 13 points in the victory to keep Notre Dame’s unbeaten ACC record intact.
HOW IT HAPPENED
The Irish and Hokies played a fairly even opening eight minutes of the first half on Saturday, as Notre Dame held a two-point lead at 14-12 early. The Irish then went on a tear, scoring 17 unanswered points to open up a 19-point cushion at 33-14 with 7:41 remaining in the half. Virginia Tech managed to fight its way back into the game by outscoring the Irish 17-6 to close out the half, trimming the Notre Dame lead to 39-31 at the halftime break.
Virginia Tech quickly cut the Irish lead to five points early in the second half but Notre Dame responded with a 10-2 run to push its advantage to 13 points with 14:28 left in regulation. After a Vasturia layup increased the lead to 14 points, the Hokies offense got hot and the hosts went on a 19-5 run to tie the game at 59-59 with over six minutes remaining.
The Hokies took their first lead of the second half off a Chris Clarke free throw with 1:52 left on the clock, setting up the dramatic finish. On the next possession Farrell finished at the rim to allow the Irish to regain the lead. After a defensive stop Beachem made a clutch jumper to increase the lead to three points at 70-67 with 49 seconds left.
Farrell then made what may have been the play of the game, catching the Hokies off guard and diving on the floor to steal the rolling inbounds pass at midcourt. The junior then darted down to the other end and found a trailing Gibbs for an open layup to give Notre Dame the lead for good on its way to the 76-71 win.
NOTRE DAME PLAYER OF THE GAME
Vasturia posted the fourth 20-point performance of the season and eighth of his career at Virginia Tech, finishing with exactly 20 on 8-of-14 shooting. The Medford, New Jersey, native was an impressive 3-for-4 from beyond the arc and added four rebounds, four assists and a steal. Vasturia has now scored in double figures in each of his last six outing, five coming in ACC action.
STAT OF THE GAME
The Irish offense was highly efficient on Saturday, finishing 28-of-54 from the field for a field goal percentage of .519, which marks the second highest percentage for Notre Dame on the season and highest in league play. The bench played a major role in the success, as the combination of Gibbs, Rex Pflueger and Austin Torres went 9-of-14 from the floor.
NOTES OF THE GAME
- The Irish improve to 7-1 against the Hokies in the all-time series and 4-0 when playing in Blacksburg. Notre Dame has not lost to Virginia Tech since moving to the ACC, going 4-0.
- Notre Dame has now outscored its first four ACC opponents 45-11 in the final 11:27 (combined) of its first five conference wins, as the Irish outscored the Hokies 10-2 over the final 1:52 of Saturday’s contest.
- With the win, Notre Dame is now 30-11 in ACC play dating back to the start of the 2014-15 season.
- Farrell finished in double figures in points for the 14th time this season.
- With 20 points, Vasturia has tallied double digits in the scoring column 15 times this season and 65 times in his career.
- Junior forward Bonzie Colson posted his ACC-best 11th double-double of the season and has recorded a double-double in four of Notre Dame’s five ACC games.
- Colson has also recorded 10-plus rebounds in all five ACC contests.
- Freshman guard T.J. Gibbs had one of his best games of the season, scoring 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. Gibbs has now scored 10-plus points in three games this season.
The Irish wrap up their challenging three-game road swing in Tallahassee, Florida, as Notre Dame takes on No. 9/10 Florida State at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 18.
— ND —
Robby Hamman joined Fighting Irish Media as athletics communications assistant director in September 2016, coordinating efforts for the volleyball and men’s lacrosse program. Hamman is a 2010 graduate of Bethel College, where he earned bachelor’s degrees in sport management and business administration, and earned his master’s degree in business administration from Defiance College in 2013.