Grant leads No. 8 Notre Dame past Virginia Tech 85-60
BLACKSBURG, Va. — Notre Dame came into its game ranked No. 8 in the country, and first-time observers might have left thinking the Fighting Irish are even better than that.
Jerian Grant scored 18 points to lead Notre Dame to an 85-60 victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday night.
Grant shot 6 of 9 from the floor, including two 3-pointers, as the Fighting Irish (18-2, 6-1 ACC) won their third straight game. Pat Connaughton added 17 points and tied a season high with five 3-pointers on a night when the Fighting Irish shot 12 of 26 from beyond the 3-point arc.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now,” Grant said. “We’re taking it one game at a time, but the sky is the limit for us. The one thing about us is we’re still getting better.”
Zach Auguste finished with 16 points and Demetrius Jackson had 12 for Notre Dame, which shot 49.2 percent from the floor (29 of 59). The Fighting Irish came in ranked second nationally in field-goal percentage (52.8 percent).
“We got some 3s in transition before their defense could get set,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “Connaughton goes and gets 10 rebounds, and we’re out and we’re running, and we got really clean looks.
“I just don’t think a lot of people in the country play like us and move the ball like us. It’s just a heck of a weapon.”
The Irish had 19 assists compared to just six turnovers.
“It’s the way we move the ball,” Grant said. “We’re really unselfish. We look to make the extra pass in transition. We look for the open guy. Nobody is forcing anything. As long as we play within our game, we’re good.”
Notre Dame won despite an off game from reserve guard V.J. Beachem, who missed all 10 of his shot attempts, including seven 3-pointers. Beachem came into the game making more than half of his 3-point attempts.
The Irish, who beat Virginia Tech for the fifth straight time, led 38-28 at halftime and broke open the game with a 17-6 run to start the second half. Jackson hit two 3-pointers in that run, and a layup by Auguste gave Notre Dame a 55-34 lead with 14:52 remaining.
“I told Coach (Brey) that they’re as good a team as he has had, in my opinion,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I thought at times in the first half we did OK, but I thought we became offensive sensitive in the second half.
“When you’re playing against a team and you’re constantly taking the ball out of the net, you want to turn it into a scoring contest and you think your stops will come after you make a basket,” Williams added. “That’s not the right way to play, period, but it’s for sure not the right way to play against Notre Dame because they’ll win.”
Ahmed Hill scored 13 points for Virginia Tech (8-10, 0-5), which lost for the fifth straight time, four by double digits. Jalen Hudson added 12 for the Hokies, who shot just 38.7 percent (24 of 62) from the floor and got outrebounded 43-29.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies announced before the game that center Joey van Zegeren has left the men’s basketball team after he was suspended indefinitely by Williams for an undisclosed violation of team rules. … Virginia Tech played without freshman Justin Bibbs, the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game. Bibbs suffered a concussion in practice Jan. 16.
Notre Dame: At 6-1 in conference play, Notre Dame is off to its best league start since opening Big East play 6-1 during the 2002-03 season. … For the first time in school history, Notre Dame has won its first three conference road games. … Connaughton’s 10 rebounds marked the fifth time this season that he has recorded a double-double. … Connaughton made his 102nd consecutive start Thursday night. He has played in all 121 games in his career, starting 105 of those.
Virginia Tech plays at home against Virginia on Sunday.
Notre Dame plays at NC State on Sunday.
*Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Don Petersen