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The Ugly Duckling

Jan 29, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

Mike Franz, the official 2013-14 men’s basketball beat writer for the In The Paint blog, is currently a sophomore at Holy Cross College. Over the course of the year Mike will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and stories from inside the team circle. You can follow Mike (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBlogger.

Every team has a really ugly loss each season; an ugly duckling if you will. Tuesday, against Virginia, Notre Dame had that kind of loss. You cannot sugarcoat this one. Notre Dame got flat-out beat tonight, losing by a score of 68-53.

This season, Notre Dame basketball has done a pretty good job of hanging in games. I asked myself after the game, “Why couldn’t they hang in there Tuesday night?” Then I took a look at the box score.

This is me stating the facts.

On average this season, Notre Dame has turned the ball over about 10 times a game. Tuesday night they turned the ball over 20 times, the largest amount of turnovers for the Irish in three years.

Also, the team has been averaging 76.3 ppg (points per game) this season. Tuesday, they scored a measly 53 points. No team can score just 53 points in a game and be expected to  win consistently in the power conference that is the ACC.

It is no secret that Pat Connaughton, Eric Atkins and Garrick Sherman are the nucleus of the Irish squad this year. The team wins if all three of them have a big game. Tuesday none of them had a big game. Sherman scored only eight (averaging 15.2 PPG), Atkins scored six (averaging 14.2), and Connaughton scored seven (averaging 13.6). When your top scorers are only contributing 21 points in a single game, it is hard to pull out a win.

The team has been struggling all season long playing both halves to their potential. So far this season, the Irish are either putting themselves into a hole or digging themselves out of one. Tuesday night it was the latter. The Irish came out flat. Luckily, due to a late run in the first half, they were fortunate enough to go into halftime only trailing the Cavaliers by 10.

Their comeback was stifled out of the gates in the second stanza. Virginia started off the second on a 9-0 run to increase their lead to 19. This just took the wind out of Notre Dame’s sails.

This season has been one of unfortunate occurrences. For being the “Fighting Irish,” they have had a lot of bad luck, from academic issues to illness plaguing players on the team. What I will say is that I applaud Mike Brey because he has remained calm, cool and collected throughout this entire ordeal that has been this season. He has never given up on his players and, likewise, they have never given up on him and his game plan.

I hate to make excuses for sports teams because good teams should be able to overcome adversity and be just fine. However, when you lose your leading scorer mid-season in your first year in a new conference and are forced to rely on freshmen to perform at a high level consistently, it is hard not to find yourself making excuses for their misfortunes.

The Irish have 10 games left in the season and sitting on top of an 11-10 record, their best chance to make the tournament is to win the ACC Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is a long shot but Notre Dame is all about making the impossible, possible.

Notre Dame’s next game is on Saturday as they take on Boston College at Noon in Purcell Pavilion. The game can be watched on the ACC Network.

Go Irish!

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