NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Virginia turned its road trip to the Purcell Pavilion into a defensive struggle.
That is: Notre Dame’s offense struggling vs. the Cavaliers’ defense.
Limiting their hosts to 26 points in the first half and just two 3-point baskets in 10 attempts, head coach Tony Bennett’s stout defensive stoppers doubled down in the second stanza, holding the Irish to one 3-pointer and just nine field goals overall in a 71-54 victory.
“They’re really good,” said Irish head coach Mike Brey. “We had a hard time scoring. We had some open looks early that I think you have to make if you’re going to beat them.”
The Cavaliers were led by senior point guard London Perrantes game-high 22 points. Perrantes knocked down five of his eight 3-point offerings, eclipsing Notre Dame’s team total (3-for-18) by himself. The visitors dominated the glass, out rebounding their hosts 38-22 including 10 on the offensive glass resulting in an insurmountable 15-2 advantage in second chance points.
“Hurt us on the backboard,” Brey said of the Cavaliers’ effort on the glass. “That’s the most we’ve been crushed on the backboard in awhile.”
Notre Dame’s 54 points marks the lowest output of the season to date. Virginia likewise held the Irish to their lowest total in both 2014 and 2015.
Bennett is, not coincidentally, undefeated in his matchups with Mike Brey’s Irish, winning each of the five meetings between the teams over the last four seasons of ACC play and also in the second round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament as head coach at Washington State.
Notre Dame has yet to eclipse 66 points in a loss under Bennett’s watch.
Bonzie Colson led the Irish with 20 points, hitting 8 of 11 shots from the field. Senior Steve Vasturia added 14 to augment a team-best five rebounds. The ACC’s leading rebounder entering the contest, Colson was limited to just four caroms in 32 minutes.
Fresh off a career-best 30-point performance in Saturday’s win over Syracuse, senior V.J. Beachem hit just one of his 10 field goal attempts, finishing without a triple in five attempts.
“We needed to make some threes,” Brey offered. “We had some early – I thought V.J. had some really clean looks. That’s a big staple of our offense. We had clean ones we missed and then other times their defense caused us to miss.”
Colson and Vasturia were the only Irish competitors to reach double digits as junior Matt Farrell finished with eight on just six field goal attempts.
Isaiah Wilkins aided the winners with 13 points and nine rebounds while junior Marial Shayok scored 10 in 27 minutes.
But it was Perrantes that ruled the court.
“Their senior guard really calms them,” said Brey of his four-year foil at the point. “Perrantes is just a fabulous basketball player. We tried a couple different guys on him but he seemed to just make big plays.”
Notre Dame fell to 6-2 in league play with the loss while the Cavaliers improved to the same, both a half-game behind leaders Florida State and North Carolina (6-1 apiece).
Virginia held their hosts to a season low in three-point shots made (3), rebounds (22), and free throw percentage (11-17; 64%).
Brey’s Irish travel to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech Saturday afternoon before returning home to face Duke on Monday night.