Pat Connaughton: ‘Base Our Program Off Defense’

After two close wins over Georgia Tech and Miami, No. 8 Notre Dame left no doubt Thursday. The Fighting Irish beat Virginia Tech, 85-60, in Blacksburg, placing four starters in double figures and shooting 49.2 percent from the floor.

“We’re trying to take this one game at a time,” Notre Dame guard Pat Connaughton said on Ferrall on the Bench. “We don’t want to look ahead to NC State on Sunday or Duke next Wednesday. We’re trying to take it one game at a time and play the best we can, and tonight I think we did that.”

Connaughton was stellar from start to finish, scoring 17 points on 6-of-8 shooting, including an unconscious 5-of-6 from downtown. He also had 10 rebounds, two assists and a steal.

“It was a good game,” Connaughton said. “My job’s easy when the rest of the guys on the team are doing what they’re supposed to do, and they’ve been doing that all year. So I have to give it up to my teammates, and it makes my life easy when the shots are wide open.”

Notre Dame shot 12-of-26 (46.2 percent) from three-point range while limiting Virginia Tech to 7-of-24 (29.2 percent) from deep. The Hokies shot just 38.7 percent from the floor overall and made just five free throws.

“One thing this year that we’ve really tried to base our program off of is defense,” Connaughton said. “We lacked in that category last year and maybe in past years where we were a more offensive-oriented team. There’s no question we can get out offensively and we have weapons, but at the end of the day, when we’re able to rely on our defense, that makes offense that much easier.”

Irish guard Jerian Grant scored a game-high 18 points, while Zach Auguste (16) and Demetrius Jackson (12) combined for 28. That trio – along with Connaughton – shot a combined 21-of-35 (60 percent) from the field.

“The starting group that we put out there is fantastic,” Connaughton said. “When we take care of the defensive end and get the rebounds that we need to get, it’s really tough to stop us on the offensive end.”

Notre Dame (18-2, 6-1) has won 14 of its last 15 games, a stretch that includes wins over Michigan State and North Carolina. The Irish have only lost twice this season: 75-74 against Providence – this after guard LaDontae Henton went off for 38 points – and 62-56 against unbeaten and second-ranked Virginia.

“No one likes losing, but the fact of the matter is, your flaws are really magnified when you lose,” Connaughton said. “We have two losses this season, and one thing that fuels this team is we think we could have won both those games. Both those games we thought we should have taken care of business and we didn’t, and that’s what kind of makes this team even hungrier as we move forward game by game in the ACC season.”

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