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The Journal Gazette

Saturday, January 26, 2019 1:00 am

College Basketball

Irish aim to flush 3 straight losses

It's Brey's goal as 2 tough teams from ACC visit

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

Notre Dame vs. Virginia

Where: Purcell Pavilion, South Bend

When: 1 p.m. today

Records: Notre Dame (11-8, 1-5 ACC), Virginia (17-1, 5-1)

TV: CBS

Radio: 1380 AM

It's difficult to imagine a more difficult pair of games than Notre Dame will play at Purcell Pavilion in a three-day span this weekend. 

This afternoon, the Irish take on No. 3 Virginia, which has lost just once this season and is widely considered the best defensive team in the country. As a reward for surviving the matchup with the Cavaliers, Notre Dame will then face the only team that has beaten Virginia: No. 2 Duke and its trio of fabulous freshmen.

Beating even one of the power pair at the top of the ACC will be a challenge for the young Irish (11-8, 1-5 ACC), who have lost three in a row and are struggling to find consistent production on offense.

“We've gotta flush (the losing streak) and move on,” coach Mike Brey said. “That's a lot to say against the next two teams. Our crowd will be great, our fans have been really supportive of this group. ... But we know we have got a heck of a challenge (today) and Monday.

“But that's why these kids came to Notre Dame, to play in this league. We've got nothing to lose. ... So, let's just let it rip and play.”

The first of the two high-profile matchups for the Irish will be against the third-ranked Cavaliers (17-1, 5-1), who lost to the Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium last Saturday 72-70.

Virginia, playing with something to prove after becoming the first No. 1 seed ever to lose to a No. 16 seed in last year's NCAA Tournament, gives up just 52.7 points per game, the fewest in the country. Opponents shoot an abysmal 24.6 percent on 3-pointers against the Cavaliers, a problem for a Notre Dame team that struggles to shoot from deep on the best of days.

“We pass and catch well and the clean looks we're getting, we're just not making enough of them,” Brey said. “I think we're a little better shooting team than we're showing, but until you do it, you are who you are. We just haven't shot it well enough to win in this league.”

The Irish have not scored more than 69 points in any of their ACC games. Even if they are able to shoot better against Virginia, the Cavaliers have the weapons on offense to score when they need to.

Leading scorer Kyle Guy was the 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball out of Lawrence Central. He averages 15 points and shoots 45.4 percent from beyond the arc, one of three Cavaliers shooting 40 percent or better.

Virginia won its first 16 games before losing to Duke. As if to emphasize that the defeat had not shaken their confidence, the Cavaliers jumped in front of Wake Forest 25-3 in the first six minutes of their next game before cruising to a 68-45 win. Guy scored his 1,000th point in the game.

“I think we wanted to make a point that we were completely past last game (against Duke),” Guy said. “I think a lot of people acted like someone died or something, but it was just a game, you win some, lose some.”

That is the type of confidence the Irish will have to deal with when they take on the Cavaliers today. This is a chance for a young group to test its ability against one of the nation's elite teams.

dsinn@jg.net