No. 23 men’s basketball rebounds with win against Notre Dame
The Cavaliers got back to their winning ways by knocking off the Fighting Irish 66-57
By: Jude Nanaw, Senior Associate Editor
Following a grueling 98-75 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga Saturday, the No. 23 Virginia men’s basketball team remedied their shortcomings in a big way Wednesday night. In their first ACC matchup of the season, the Cavaliers (5-2, 1-0 ACC) took care of business against Notre Dame (3-5, 0-2 ACC) by a score of 66-57.
“I thought we made enough good offensive plays, took advantage and then [had] enough key stops,” Coach Tony Bennett said. “Still some breakdowns but hopefully we'll keep getting better. It was kind of everyone chipping in, and that's how it'll have to be with this team … [helping] each other defensively and offensively.”
Prior to the game, Virginia held a 12-game winning streak in ACC openers. The Cavaliers also boasted a 14-2 all-time record against the Fighting Irish.
The starting lineup for Virginia at the Purcell Pavilion in Notre Dame, Ind. was shuffled once again — it featured junior guard Kihei Clark, sophomore guard Casey Morsell, junior guard Trey Murphy and senior forwards Sam Hauser and Jay Huff. The Cavaliers jumped out to an early 8-4 lead against the Fighting Irish with six of the early points coming courtesy of Huff.
After Clark drilled a three-pointer a possession later, it became evident that the Cavaliers had shored up their defensive woes from their previous game. Clinging to a 14-11 lead inside of 10 minutes remaining in the first frame, Virginia managed to force a Notre Dame shot clock violation.
The stifling defensive possession was just one of many in the opening half for the Cavaliers as the Fighting Irish were consistently chased off of the three-point line. Leading 16-12, Virginia built on their lead after Hauser delivered his first points of the game with a contested three-point shot.
As time in the first half ticked down to three minutes, Hauser delivered once again with a baseline jumper, growing the Cavalier lead up to 23-14. Following a TV timeout, Notre Dame junior forward Nate Laszewski came out on fire and drilled back to back three-pointers. Huff responded for Virginia with a three-pointer of his own to bring the score to 26-20.
Nursing a 30-24 lead with just a few seconds to go in the opening half, it appeared that the Cavaliers had given up a three-pointer from halfcourt to junior guard Cormac Ryan as the buzzer sounded. However, upon further review, the shot was waived off and the Cavaliers maintained a six-point lead.
Heading into the locker room, Virginia outshot Notre Dame from the floor 45 percent to 32 percent. Huff led the Cavaliers with 13 points while Laszewski led the Fighting Irish with 14 points.
Despite trailing for nearly the entirety of the game, the Fighting Irish continued to hang around in the second half. Though Virginia came out swinging in the second frame with a three-pointer from Clark and turnaround jumper from Hauser to go up 35-24, five quick points from junior guard Dane Goodwin kept Notre Dame in the mix.
A few possessions later, the Cavalier lead swelled once again to 42-32. However, graduate student forward Juwan Durham stepped up to the plate for the Fighting Irish with an and-one play at the rim.
As Notre Dame continued to chip away at the Virginia lead, Huff picked up his fourth foul of the game, resulting in him heading to the bench with the Cavaliers up by just a point. Up 47-46, Virginia continued to battle to keep the Fighting Irish at bay.
A key three-pointer from Hauser along with a critical put-back by sophomore forward Justin McKoy brought the scoreline to 52-46. As the teams exchanged buckets down the stretch, Clark delivered the play of the game with an and-one finish at the rim while being defended by 6-foot-5 Ryan of Notre Dame.
A three-pointer a possession later from Hauser following his hustle to secure the offensive rebound stamped the game for Virginia. The Cavaliers went on to secure the win by a score of 66-57.
“Obviously I’ve missed some open shots and it's frustrating, but you just got to stick with it and just shoot like the next one is going to go down,” Hauser said. “That is kind of what my mentality was and it went down and came at a crucial time in the game.”
Clark led the team in scoring for the second straight game, posting 19 points along with five assists. Clark notably improved with regard to turnovers as he had zero throughout the matchup compared to six against Gonzaga. Closely behind Clark in scoring were Huff and Hauser who had 15 points and 13 points, respectively.
“Being a point guard, you got to take care of the ball so I'm just trying to be conscious and just be more sound as Coach Bennett calls it,” Clark said. “Just trying to pick my spots during the offense and just being aggressive and taking what the defense gives me.”
For the Fighting Irish, it was Laszewski and Durham who scored most frequently, recording 28 and 19 points, respectively. Virginia outperformed Notre Dame in field goal percentage 46.6 percent to 40 percent as well as in three point shooting, 30.8 percent to 25 percent. Foul trouble for the Cavaliers allowed the Fighting Irish to get the free-throw line frequently throughout the game where they shot 16-for-21.
The Cavaliers' next game was originally scheduled against in-state rival No. 24 Virginia Tech, but the game was postponed Friday afternoon after a Virginia men’s basketball staff member tested positive for COVID-19 and the team conducted contact tracing.
As of press time, the team is still scheduled to face Wake Forest Wednesday. Tip-off at John Paul Jones Arena is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be broadcast live on ACC regional sports networks.