The last time Notre Dame coach Mike Brey squared off against a Tony Bennett-coached team before Tuesday, it was in the NCAA tournament on March 22, 2008. No. 5 Washington State left Denver with a berth in the Sweet 16 after utterly dominating the No. 4 Irish on the defensive side of the ball for a 61-41 victory. That performance was one of Notre Dame’s worst offensive days in Brey’s tenure – the Irish shot just 24.5 percent, making 13 field goals. When the two faced each other again Tuesday, this time with Bennett coaching Virginia, the result was more of the same – woeful offense for Notre Dame in a 68-53 home loss. Here’s a breakdown of what happened: 1. The Irish committed 20 turnovers – 13 in the first half as they fell behind by 19 before a 9-0 run toward the end of the half made it a game again by halftime. Garrick Sherman was overwhelmed by double teams in the post and Virginia had active hands on defense, getting their hands on several balls without fouling. Nobody came away looking good. Sherman had five turnovers. Point guard Eric Atkins was just 2-for-8 as he had a hard time negotiating Virginia’s half-court traps against him. Pat Connaughton was 3-for-9 with four turnovers, including one in the second half when Virginia’s Joe Harris simply took it out of his hands as Connaughton was eyeing a move to the basket. “We made some bad decisions, but they're really good defensively and kind of imposed their will on us and broke our spirit a little bit,” Brey said. “You look at one of these [defeats], and you're amazed it only counts as one loss.” 2. As Brey said after the game, he had no idea how the Irish pulled within 10 by halftime given how sloppily they played in the first half. “We had 13 turnovers and still had a little life at halftime,” Brey said. “I don't think we deserved that.” It didn’t take long for the good vibes to wear off. Virginia re-asserted its dominance early in the second half, scoring nine straight points before the first media timeout to take a 19-point lead. Now Notre Dame’s issue was a creaky defense, which allowed Malcolm Brogdy and Mike Tobey to shoot 7-for-10 from the field. When the Irish fall behind as badly as they did Tuesday, they lack the defensive prowess to shut another team down and make a long run. Virginia shot 54 percent for the night. “We couldn't get stops,” Brey said. “Virginia runs their stuff and we're on our heels a little bit searching. We're not the most confident group, and you can't simply inject anybody with confidence."
Notre Dame rewind: Too many turnovers
Chicago Tribune | Jan 29