GAME NOTES: Both the Virginia Tech Hokies and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will try to put an end to their respective three-game losing streaks on Sunday night when they meet up at Purcell Pavilion for an Atlantic Coast Conference clash.
Since winning its first ACC game of the season at Miami-Florida back on Dec. 8 (61-60 in OT), Virginia Tech has hit a rough patch with losses in five of its last six games to slip to 8-8 overall. The Hokies most recently hosted Clemson on Wednesday, losing by a 56-49 final to dip to 1-3 in the league.
Notre Dame's 10-7 overall record seems respectable on the surface but has come as a big disappointment considering it began the season in the Top 25. The Irish are also just 1-3 in the ACC, and after capturing an outstanding home triumph over nationally-ranked Duke on Jan. 4 (79-77), they've dropped three straight to NC State (77-70), Georgia Tech (74-69) and Maryland (74-66).
Notre Dame has beaten Virginia Tech in three of the four all-time meetings, but this marks the first time the squads will face off as ACC foes.
The Hokies were stifled by Clemson's stout defense -- the top-ranked unit in the nation -- scoring just 49 points on 41.7 percent from the field earlier in the week, and they lost a six-point lead early in the second half following a 10-0 Tigers' run and could never recover down the stretch. They also shot themselves in the foot with a dreadful 4-of-14 showing from the free-throw line. Devin Wilson was the primary reason for the struggles at the stripe (2- of-8) but he still finished with a game-high 14 points. Ben Emelogu and Joey van Zegeren poured in 11 points apiece.
On the season, Virginia Tech has boasted a most offensive attack, shooting 43.1 percent from the field for 70.1 ppg, but in four ACC games those numbers have plummeted all the way to .368 and 55.3 ppg. Jarell Eddie leads the way with 15.3 ppg, and while he shoots less than 40 percent overall, he's been on the mark from 3-point range (46-of-105). Adam Smith (11.8 ppg) and Emelogu (11.5 ppg) have also been active from beyond the arc with 24 3-pointers apiece.
The Irish actually outshot Maryland from the field in their most recent game, 48 percent to 39.7 percent, but after building a nine-point halftime lead, they were dominated in the second stanza, 49-32. Despite their strong field-goal percentage, they were held back by shooting just 11-of-20 from the foul line, committing 17 turnovers and getting outrebounded, 40-31. Pat Connaughton led all scorers with 19 points, Garrick Sherman netted 18 points but had six turnovers, while Eric Atkins tallied 11 points and six assists.
Notre Dame's offensive prowess this season has been well documented, as it shoots 46.9 percent from the field (including 37.3 percent from 3-point range) for 77.9 ppg, and even though its shooting attack is often good enough to mask its deficiencies on the other end of the floor, its scoring defense (71.4 ppg) still hasn't been up to par. Jerian Grant (19.0 ppg, 6.2 apg) was dismissed from the team last month, and in his absence Sherman (14.9 ppg, 8.4 rpg) has assumed the role of go-to option, shooting 51.8 percent from the field. Atkins scores 13.8 ppg and hands out 4.9 apg, while Connaughton (13.6 ppg) has drained 43-of-102 (.422) from long distance.
Notre Dame's recent struggles aside, it has still played well on its home floor (9-3) and should be able to get back on the right track against a Virginia Tech squad which has failed to find its shooting stroke in recent weeks.
Game Date and Time