Men’s basketball defeats Notre Dame 50-49 in overtime thriller

The Cavaliers stopped the Fighting Irish on the last play of the game to seal the victory

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Senior forward Mamadi Diakite was instrumental for Virginia on both the offensive and defensive ends — scoring 20 points while shutting down John Mooney, Notre Dame All-ACC senior forward.

Julia Stewart | Cavalier Daily

Virginia edged out Notre Dame at John Paul Jones Arena Tuesday night, 50-49. The Cavaliers (16-7, 8-5 ACC) defeated the Fighting Irish (15-9, 6-7 ACC) on the shoulders of a 20-point performance by senior forward Mamadi Diakite. 

“In some ways a lot of people may not be paying attention to this game because it was kinda bubble teams, but it was a very important game for us, as is every game,” junior forward Jay Huff said. 

The Cavaliers started off with possession, as Diakite went to work inside on John Mooney, Notre Dame All-ACC senior forward. However, Mooney blocked Diakite’s layup attempt and proceeded to sink a hook shot over Diakite on the other side of the floor. On Virginia’s next possession, junior guard Tomas Woldetensae picked up from where he left off against Louisville, draining a fadeaway jumper in the key. 

Fighting Irish senior forward Juwan Durham responded with a mid-range jumper from the left corner, but Woldetensae converted his first three-pointer of the night on the Cavaliers’ possession, giving Virginia a 5-4 lead with 16:22 left in the first half. 

Virginia and Notre Dame continued to battle in what looked to be a defensive slugfest — scoring just seven points combined in the following 5:14 — with the Cavaliers holding a 9-7 lead at the media timeout. 

However, the Fighting Irish battled back. Their zone defense confused Virginia at times and the offense sunk two three-pointers — thanks to sophomore guards Dane Goodwin and Prentiss Hubb — in just 1:29 to bring the score to 15-12 with 7:45 left in the first half.

Following a free throw from Mooney, Notre Dame sank their third straight three-pointer — courtesy of sophomore forward Nate Laszewski — as the Fighting Irish looked to pull away from the Cavaliers. Nevertheless, the Virginia offense continually came up with answers to Notre Dame, as the two teams went tit for tat in the final minutes of the first half. 

Following a tough layup from Diakite, Fighting Irish senior guard T.J. Gibbs drained a corner three to give Notre Dame a 26-22 lead at the end of the first half. What made the difference between the teams was three-point scoring, as the Fighting Irish converted 41.7 percent of their threes to just 12.5 percent for Virginia in the first half. 

Following a scoreless 2:38, sophomore guard Kihei Clark started the scoring in the second-half with a three-pointer from the right corner to narrow the lead to one point. However, on the other side of the floor, Mooney responded with a long jumper to extend Notre Dame’s lead to 28-25. As Virginia continued to probe the Fighting Irish in the hopes of regaining the lead, Notre Dame always seemed to find an answer. 

However, with 9:51 remaining, Virginia finally tied the game at 38-38 after Huff knocked down a three-pointer. Just under one minute later, the Cavaliers forced a Notre Dame shot-clock violation as the Virginia faithful roared in support — standing throughout the subsequent timeout. 

“Give credit to Virginia, again,” Notre Dame Coach Mike Brey said. “They’re really hard to score against, and we had a couple possessions down the stretch where they just kinda shut us down.”

Huff rode this momentum, converting a hook-shot to give the Cavaliers their first lead of the half and stepping up defensively on the Fighting Irish’s next possession with a block. The North Carolina native then drained his second three-pointer of the night to extend Virginia’s lead to 43-38 with 8:02 to play. 

However, costly turnovers by the Cavaliers enabled Notre Dame to fight back, as the Fighting Irish cut Virginia’s lead to 45-44 in part due to two fast-break scores. At the 2:41 mark, Gibbs converted a corner three-pointer to regain the lead for the Irish, as a familiar feeling of anxiety engulfed the crowd. 

Nevertheless, following a missed Laszewski three-pointer, Diakite converted a hook-shot over Mooney to tie the game with 25 seconds to play. Despite the fact that the Fighting Irish had the final shot, three straight fouls by Clark stymied any attempt at a game-winner as the two teams headed to overtime tied at 47. 

Diakite got Virginia on the board first in overtime, sinking two free-throws. However, Hubb sank a mid-range over Clark to tie things back up at 49 with 3:31 to play. 1:27 later, Mooney missed two free throws, while Key sank a free throw on the other end to give Virginia a 50-49 lead. The two teams went scoreless for the rest of the game, as the Cavaliers came up with a huge defensive stop on the final play to seal the victory. 

Diakite led all players with 20 points, while Huff and Clark combined for 17. The Virginia trio contributed 37 of the Cavaliers’ total 50 points.

“We missed free throws, we had some key turnovers down the stretch, they missed some open shots, but we’ll take it,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “We did fight, we battled, and came up with a tough win.”

Up next for Virginia is a visit to the Dean Smith Center in Chapel Hill, N.C. to face North Carolina Saturday afternoon. Tip-off is set for 8 p.m. and the game will be broadcast on ESPN. 

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