BROOKLYN, N.Y. — In a stunning collapse, the Virginia Tech men’s basketball team blew a 21-point second-half lead and lost to Notre Dame in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
The 10th-seeded Fighting Irish beat the seventh-seeded Hokies 71-65 at the Barclays Center on Wednesday.
“Just completely fell apart the last 15 minutes defensively,” Tech coach Buzz Williams said.
“We just fell apart,” said Tech point guard Justin Robinson, who had 15 points.
Tech (21-11), which had a first-round bye, went 0-1 in the ACC Tournament for the first time in Williams’ four years as the Hokies’ coach.
Notre Dame (20-13) trailed 34-21 at halftime. It was the third-biggest halftime comeback in ACC Tournament history.
“We disintegrated,” Williams said of the second half. “We didn’t guard.”
The lead grew to 38-21 with 18:37 left, but Notre Dame scored 50 points the rest of the way.
The Hokies’ lead stretched to 47-26 with 15:07 left. Tech was 6 of 7 from the field in the second half at that point. Tech had 26 points in the paint to Notre Dame’s eight in the game at that point.
But Notre Dame scored 45 points in the final 15 minutes.
“How about that one?” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I’ve never been prouder of a group because they were thumping us pretty good, because they’re really hard to guard. But I thought the … last 15 minutes, we got better defensively and we made some adjustments offensively.”
Tech led 54-37 with 10:57 left but then missed 15 of its next 16 field-goal attempts and lost the lead.
“Offense wasn’t great [the final 11 minutes]. They started switching everything, just to try to keep us in front,” Williams said.
“We really dug in defensively,” Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell said. “Our defense was the thing that got us the W.”
Bonzie Colson (12 points), Farrell (22 points) and TJ Gibbs made three straight 3-pointers to cut the lead to 54-46 with 9:07 left.
Colson and Farrell had not played in Tech’s Jan. 27 win at Notre Dame. Colson, a preseason All-American, returned to action last week after missing 15 games with a broken foot. Farrell missed five January games with an injured ankle.
Colson was 1 of 10 from the field in the first half but made three of his four second-half shots.
With Tech leading 54-46, Hokies forward Chris Clarke was whistled for a technical for lightly pushing Farrell out of bounds.
“Farrell took the ball from me and I tried to get it back and he flopped and he fell on the ground,” Clarke said.
After the technical, Farrell made the free throws to cut the lead to 54-48 with 8:00 to go. Notre Dame got to keep the ball. Gibbs was fouled and made two free throws to cut the lead to 54-50 with 7:45 left.
“[The technical] kind of shifted the momentum a little bit and kind of got us going,” Farrell said.
Justin Bibbs (15 points) made a 3-pointer to end the Irish’s 13-0 run and extend the lead to 57-50 with 7:30 to go. Tech had missed six straight shots before Bibbs’ 3-pointer.
But after Bibbs’ 3-pointer, the Hokies missed their next nine shots.
Farrell and Robinson each made two free throws. Rex Pflueger then made a 3-pointer and a layup to cut the lead to 59-57 with 2:49 left.
With the shot clock winding down, Colson banked in a 3-pointer to give Notre Dame the lead for good at 60-59 with 2:02 left. It was Notre Dame’s first lead since there was 12:02 left in the first half.
“The backboard is there for a reason. My dad used to tell me, ‘It’s your best friend,’ ” Colson said.
The Fighting Irish made six free throws to extend the lead to 66-59 with 35 seconds left.
Notre Dame shot 25 percent from the field in the first half but 57.1 percent in the second half.
The Fighting Irish moved Farrell from point guard to off-guard in the second half and put Gibbs at point guard.
“The one thing we did [at halftime] was get Matty off the ball because they were doubling and he couldn’t see over the big double teams,” Brey said.
Tech shot 37.5 percent from the field in the second half.
“We fell apart … on defense and I feel like it translated to our offensive game,” Clarke said.
Notre Dame, which entered the game on the NCAA Tournament bubble, will face Duke in the quarterfinals Thursday.
“We really deserve to be in,” Brey said of the NCAAs. “When I have my guys back, we’re a Top 20 team.”
Tech, which is a safe bet for an NCAA at-large bid, will now wait for the NCAA Tournament pairings to be announced at 6 p.m. Sunday on TBS.