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Virginia Tech basketball: Poor second half dooms Hokies in ugly 74-66 loss to Notre Dame

The Hokies drop their third consecutive game.

NCAA Basketball: Virginia Tech at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

Nothing is easy on the road in ACC play. Unfortunately, Virginia Tech learned this lesson the hard way on Saturday, falling 74-66 to the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It was Virginia Tech’s third consecutive loss, dropping them to 13-10, with a 5-7 record in ACC play. Notre Dame improves to 8-16, with a 3-10 mark in conference play.

In the first half, it looked like the Hokies were well on their way to victory, making six of 11 3-point attempts before heading into intermission with a 39-35 lead. Tech made 54.5% of its shots from the field in the first 20 minutes and played well enough defensively to give you hope things would be fine in the second half.

Things were vastly different in the second half. Notre Dame came out swinging early, as freshman guard Braeden Shrewsberry drilled a three to cut Virginia Tech’s lead to one point. After Hunter Cattoor missed a three on the other end, Notre Dame freshman guard Markus Burton pulled down the rebound and found sophomore big man Kebba Njie for the bucket, and suddenly, the Fighting Irish had the lead.

Burton made consecutive buckets, and Notre Dame went on a 9-0 run and enjoyed a five-point lead. However, the Hokies had an answer, as senior center Lynn Kidd scored his only bucket of the game, followed by a Cattoor trey, and we were all tied at 44.

The Irish would score the following five points as Tech’s offense went cold. Fortunately for the Hokies, senior forward Mylyjael Poteat came to play, keeping them in the game with consecutive scores to nod the game up at 49 apiece.

But VT struggled on both ends of the floor in the final 20 minutes. The Fighting Irish opened up a nine-point lead that the Hokies couldn’t recover from, and that was enough for them to pick up their third conference win of the season.

As a team, the Hokies shot 43.9% from the field. However, in the second half, Tech made only 10 of its 31 attempts from the field, including just two of 13 from beyond the arc in the final 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame shot over 50% in the second half as VT’s backcourt had no answer for the Irish’s freshmen guards. Burton scored 18 to lead Notre Dame, while Shrewsberry scored 12 — all on 3-point field goals.

Cattoor led the Hokies with 18 points but was 4 of 11 from 3-point range, going just two of eight from downtown in the second half. Sean Pedulla scored 13 for Tech but turned the ball over six times.

Poteat once again provided the Hokies with excellent minutes off the bench, scoring 14 points. Virginia Tech senior forward Robbie Beran had a career-high 13 rebounds.

Why did Tech lose this game? Where do we begin? The Hokies have no consistent inside presence. Kidd has gone AWOL the past two games, scoring eight combined points in losses to Miami and Notre Dame. For the Hokies to win, they need Kidd to score around 15 points per game and provide an actual inside presence.

Pedulla scored 13 quiet points. His turnovers remain an issue because he often tries to do too much. The Hokies don’t have players who can consistently create their own shot, which always shows up. MJ Collins scored only two points despite playing a team-high 36 minutes.

Could this be the worst loss of the Mike Young era?

The Hokies are back in action on Tuesday against Florida State. The Seminoles defeated VT last month by three points in a game where Tech blew another second-half lead.

Tech goes to Chapel Hill to face No. 3 North Carolina one week from Saturday.