Hokies squander 21-point second half lead in ACC Tournament collapse against Notre Dame

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BROOKLYN, N.Y. (Hokie Sports) – In the second round of the New York Life ACC Tournament, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team fell to the hands of Notre Dame and its second-half surge, 71-65, on Wednesday night inside the Barclays Center.

Virginia Tech men’s basketball. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Hokies (21-11, 10-8 ACC) fell in its first game of an ACC Tournament since 2014, while the Fighting Irish (20-13, 8-10 ACC) won their second consecutive game and will face two-seeded Duke on Thursday.

Guards Justin Bibbs and Justin Robinson tallied a team-high 15 points apiece and forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. almost posted a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds. It was Blackshear’s third time owning eight or more rebounds versus an ACC opponent this season.

Tied at 15-all at the 10:39 mark of the first half, junior Chris Clarke pulled down a rebound and went coast-to-coast, turning in the old school three-point play. The board and bucket ignited Tech for an 8-2 run, forcing a Notre Dame timeout.

Following the break in action, the Hokies kept their momentum by finishing the half with scoring 11 of the next 15 points. They went into intermission with a 34-21 advantage behind holding the Irish to shooting 25 percent from the field. The Irish’s 21 points at half were their fewest since Feb. 3 against NC State when they scored exactly 21, too.

Notre Dame celebrates a charge. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

Just 1 minute, 30 seconds into the second frame, Tech built its lead to a 17-point advantage after consecutive fastbreak layups, making Notre Dame call another timeout. Tech continued scoring the basketball at a high rate, manufacturing an advantage as many as 21 points after a Blackshear layup with 15 minutes left to play.

Notre Dame stormed back, though, going on a 16-3 run over a four-minute span to cut the deficit to four points with 7:45 remaining. Play would go back-and-forth until the Irish’s Bonzie Colson banked in a 3-pointer at the 2:02 mark, giving them their first lead of the second half.

The Irish stretched their lead to seven points with 35 ticks left, but Nickeil Alexander-Walker nailed a triple and on the ensuing Hokie possession, Robinson hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to trim Notre Dame’s lead to three. The Irish would make three free throws down the stretch to claim it.