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No. 4 men’s basketball outlasts Notre Dame, 60-54

Hunter had 20 points and 10 rebounds in gritty Cavaliers win

<p>Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter had his second double-double of the season against Notre Dame.</p>

Sophomore guard De'Andre Hunter had his second double-double of the season against Notre Dame.

Virginia beat Notre Dame 60-54 in a gritty game at John Paul Jones Arena Saturday afternoon, surviving an upset scare.

The No. 4 Cavaliers (22-2, 10-2 ACC) took down the Fighting Irish (13-12, 3-9 ACC) behind strong nights from sophomore guard De’Andre Hunter and junior guard Kyle Guy, who combined for 42 of Virginia’s 60 points. Hunter had 20 points and 10 rebounds — his second double-double of the season — and Guy had 22 points and six rebounds. Notre Dame junior guard T.J. Gibbs led the Fighting Irish in scoring with 17 points.

It was an ugly start for both teams, with just six points scored in the first 6:05 of play.

Notre Dame’s 2-3 zone defense gave Virginia some problems offensively in the first half, but the Fighting Irish couldn’t generate any offense of their own.

Guy put the Cavaliers on the board on the game’s first possession with a contested lay-in, but Gibbs responded with a pull-up jumper off the rebound to make it 2-2 and a difficult runner to make it 4-2, which was the score going into the TV timeout.

Virginia came out of the break by forcing the Fighting Irish into a shot clock violation, and a pair of threes from Guy started to get the Cavaliers going on offense. Guy led Virginia in scoring in the first half with 10 points.

As the Cavaliers seemed to be opening up a lead, Gibbs kept Notre Dame in the game, making two consecutive threes to cut Virginia’s lead to one, 11-10. Gibbs scored the Fighting Irish’s first 10 points of the game.

Virginia opened up a 16-10 lead, but buckets on consecutive possessions by Notre Dame sophomore guard D.J. Harvey cut the deficit back to one.

Hunter scored the Cavaliers’ next seven points, and his corner three-pointer made it 23-19 Virginia with 2:53 left in the half.

“He is so good and talented at one-on-one basketball and there’s no one in the country that can stop him,” Guy said.

Junior transfer guard Braxton Key provided a great boost off the bench, especially defensively, for the Cavaliers. His rebound led to a three-pointer from junior guard Ty Jerome to make it 27-19 Virginia, the Cavaliers’ biggest lead of the night.

The Fighting Irish wouldn’t go away, however, and cut the deficit to two with three-pointers on back-to-back possessions. Of Notre Dame’s 25 first-half points, 15 came from beyond the arc.

A tough lay-in from senior center Jack Salt sent Virginia into the break up four, 29-25.

Guy picked up right where he left off to start the second half, scoring the Cavaliers’ first five points. His three from the top of the key made it 34-27 Virginia.

Virginia started to move the ball much better on offense in the second half.

“I thought we had a couple beautiful possessions in the second half of zone offense,” Coach Tony Bennett said.

Hunter’s pocket pass to junior forward Mamadi Diakite for the easy dunk made it 39-30 Virginia, and Notre Dame was forced to call a timeout with 14:47 left to play.

Notre Dame, however, went on an 8-0 run, and a three-pointer from Gibbs made it 39-38 Virginia with 12:21 remaining in the game. But the Fighting Irish couldn’t do enough to get over the hump, never leading in the second half.

A Diakite dunk stopped the Fighting Irish run, and Hunter kept Virginia’s momentum going. He scored 10 of the Cavaliers’ next 13 points to put Virginia up 54-44 with 4:55 to play. The Fighting Irish had difficulty stopping Hunter off the dribble.

“He’s a hard matchup for anybody in this league, and certainly for us,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said of Hunter. “He gets LeBron calls.”

Notre Dame cut it to four points, 54-50, with 41.4 seconds left in the game, and a Guy turnover off the press led to two more points for the Fighting Irish, putting the Cavaliers’ lead in serious jeopardy.

Two free throws from Guy made it 56-52, but a wide open layup from junior forward John Mooney cut the deficit back to two points. It was too little, too late, however for Notre Dame.

Guy and Jerome sank their free throws to give the Cavaliers their 10th conference victory of the season in a game that was a tough battle from start to finish.

The Cavaliers have a quick turnaround, facing No. 22 Virginia Tech in Blacksburg Monday night.

“They play like a different team when they’re at home,” Guy said. “We’re expecting a hostile environment and are excited for it.”