Virginia Tech withered down the stretch against Notre Dame. Simple as that. The Hokies blew a 47-26 lead with 15:07 left and ultimately lost to the Irish 71-65.
It was a story of two distinct halves.
First half: The Hokies performed as expected. Rested. Energetic. Ready to win and advance in the ACC Tournament.
Second half: Notre Dame made adjustments and overcame a 21-point deficit.
"They started switching everything just to try to keep us in front," noted Buzz Williams.
It was a program best comeback for the Irish.
Fatigue was noticeable for Irish star forward Bonzie Colson. It was Colson's second game in as many days after an 8-week layoff due to a broken foot. He hit only a single bucket in 10 attempts in the first half, and his lack of scoring scuttled Notre Dame out of the gate. The Irish shot only 25% in the first half.
"They made it hard for me to catch it, for me to go work down there," said Colson. "...We came out stronger and better in the second half."
A 13-point halftime lead ballooned to a 21-point, 47-26 Tech advantage at the 15:07 mark. And then, Notre Dame woke up.
Slowly but surely the Irish chipped away and narrowed the gap.
"They forced help, made some threes," Williams said.
Matt Farrell (2), T.J. Gibbs, and Colson kicked in triples to help cut the lead to single digits, 54-46.
Soon after, a Chris Clarke technical provided Notre Dame an opportunity to seize the momentum. The Irish grabbed it with both hands.
#Hokies Chris Clarke on the T he received for shoving Notre Dame's Matt Farrell: "He's a flopper and he flopped really hard, sold it to the refs. It's a Tech. ... I wasn't surprised. I saw the show he put on."— Mike Barber (@RTD_MikeBarber) March 8, 2018
Notre Dame finished on a 25-11 run. And it was a poorly officiated final stretch. There were missed travels, flops, an unnecessary pause for an injured player, trash talking, and makeup calls galore.
But that's not what decided the game.
The Hokies finished 2-12 from the floor. Notre Dame made 8 of their last 10. Tech scored 10 points between the 12- and 2-minute marks of the game. Notre Dame ripped off 13-0 and 14-0 runs in the second frame.
"We disintegrated," said Williams after the game. "We didn't guard."
Pretty straight forward.