It wasn’t easy, but the No. 23 Virginia Cavaliers started off conference play with a win on the road against Notre Dame. Virginia (5-2, 1-0 ACC) rebounded well from the loss to Gonzaga with a much better defensive performance to secure the win. Notre Dame shot just 25% from three, well under their average of 40.9% coming into the game.
Nate Laszewki was a problem, going off for 28 points on 8-for-11 shooting (4-for-7 from three). Juwan Durham shone in the front court, adding 19 points and five rebounds. Virginia was able to hold Prentiss Hubb and Dane Goodwin — Notre Dame’s top two scorers for the season to this point — to just nine points on 3-for-16 shooting.
Kihei Clark led Virginia with 19 points, three rebounds, and five assists with no rebounds. He was one of three double-digit scorers for the Hoos with Jay Huff adding 15 and Sam Hauser contributing 13. Hauser finished with a double-double with 10 rebounds to go with his 13 points, but no rebound was bigger than the offensive board he grabbed in a swarm of Irish players with just under two minutes left. He would hit a three on the ensuing possession, giving Virginia an eight-point lead and effectively putting the game away.
Virginia shot 47% from the field and 31% from three, but most importantly, they only turned the ball over five times. Justin McKoy had some big minutes late as Huff dealt with foul issues, adding six points and six boards (three offensive) in just 11 minutes of action.
Tony Bennett went with his fifth different starting lineup of the season as Clark, Casey Morsell, Trey Murphy, Hauser, Jay Huff got the nod.
Huff came out of the gate hot, scoring six of Virginia’s first eight points. Unlike against Gonzaga where Virginia had three straight turnovers to start the game, the Hoos didn’t turn it over against ND until the 15:40 mark of the first half.
Both teams traded scoring droughts, with Notre Dame getting as close as two points before Virginia extended its lead back to seven points at the under eight timeout. The Irish got its first two threes of the game to finally fall on back-to-back possessions, cutting Virginia’s advantage to 23-20 with just under three minutes to play in the first half. Huff responded with a three of his own, but Nate Laszewski capped off a personal nine-point burst with an old-fashioned three-point play to keep the gap at three.
Back-to-back buckets from Huff — including one emphatic dunk — gave Virginia a little breathing room, and the Hoos took a 30-24 lead into the break.
Huff led the Hoos with 13 points on 6-for-7 shooting, and Laszewski scored 14 of Notre Dame’s 24 points thanks to his flurry of points late in the half. Laszewski and Juwan Durham scored all but one of Notre Dame’s points in the first half.
Virginia shot 45% from the field in the first half, but only connected on 25% of their shots from downtown. Defensively, the Cavaliers looked much more locked in than they have in previous games as they held ND to 32% shooting from the field. Neither team had many turnovers in the first half, combining for just seven turnovers and four points off of turnovers for the first 20 minutes.
The Hoos came out of the halftime break hot as Clark connected on a three and Hauser hit a long two to push the lead to double-digits for the first time. Notre Dame responded with its own 5-0 run from Dane Goodwin, but Clark drove the lane for a bucket to make it 37-29 with 16:23 to play.
Morsell had a brilliant sequence in the second half as he hit a three on one end of the court, then followed it up with a block on the defensive end.
Notre Dame cut the Virginia lead to one with 9:40 to play, and Huff went back to the bench with four fouls. Clark pulled up for a jumper to push the advantage back to three, but Hubb responded to keep the pressure on. A much-needed three from Hauser gave Virginia a 50-46 lead with just under eight minutes to play.
An absolute circus shot from Clark and a crucial three from Hauser — after an offensive rebound among three Irish players — gave Virginia an 8-point advantage with just over a minute and a half to play. After a turnover from Hubb, Clark found Huff for an easy dunk to put the game away.
Next up, Virginia hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday, January 2. The game is scheduled for 4pm on the ACC Network.