No. 7 UVA survives scare from Notre Dame at home
No. 7 Virginia narrowly escaped the clutches of an upset Saturday, leaving John Paul Jones Arena with a 57-55 win over Notre Dame.
The game was tight throughout and went down to the wire.
Virginia shot 36% from the field, and its guards accounted for 66% of its scoring with 38 points.
“I think we have to finish a little better and keep working on it,” Bennett said. “The quality of the looks appeared to be OK. At times, we got a little lulled into just being unsure. [Notre Dame] did some good stuff, switching some of our actions. But you know, when you’re struggling to score, that’s not going to usually cut it, shooting the percentage we did for the game.”
A 3-pointer from Ben Vander Plas with just over six minutes left in the game gave UVA a 53-45 lead, and it appeared the Cavaliers had finally taken control.
It turned out to be the opposite, though, as UVA only hit one more field goal the rest of the game.
While UVA began to struggle, Notre Dame was able to capitalize and mount a comeback. Baskets from Nate Laszewski and Dane Goodwin pulled the Irish to within three points.
Marcus Hammond hit two clutch free throws to help the Irish tie the game at 55 with less than 30 seconds left on the clock.
Two seconds later, Kihei Clark put UVA back up with two free throws of his own.
Notre Dame’s Trey Wertz drew a foul with three seconds left. He made the first free throw before head coach Mike Brey called a timeout.
“I said [to Wertz], ‘You got a good miss in you?’ and he kind of laughed,” Brey said.
Wertz did indeed have a miss, a “clean” one as Brey described it.
The ball bounced high off the rim and was tipped and passed out to Goodwin, who had a wide-open look for a potential game-winner
Goodwin’s 3-point shot banged off the rim and every Virginia fan let out a collective sigh of relier.
“It was a perfect miss,” Bennett said. “[Brey] had those two guys at the three. If you match up with them, then you’re gonna probably give up one-on-one rebounding. So, you’re trying to just pinch and take your chances, but they got the look and he just missed it.”
Clark — Virginia’s leading scorer this season — continued to pace the team by collecting 15 points and four assists.
With an assist just after halftime, Clark passed John Crotty — who was in attendance — for the UVA career assist record. He now was 685 assists for his career.
“Kihei has been so important for our program,” Bennett said. “He’s a competitor of the highest level and he’s made a difference ever since he stepped foot on campus.”
Clark said he was looking forward to speaking with Crotty about the record after the game, but gave credit to his teammates.
“It means a lot,” Clark said. “I think being a point guard, assists are something that have to do with being at that position. But it’s a team award, the guys make a lot of shots and I give the credit to them.”
The Cavaliers (21-4, 13-3 ACC) are now 8-0 at home against Notre Dame all-time.
Coming off back-to-back close wins over teams at the bottom of the conference, Reece Beekman is confident that UVA is still on the right track.
“I feel like we’re close,” Beekman said. “We kind of preach the little things at practice and it kind of shows up in the games just in certain moments. So I felt like we just kind of continue to work on those little things, I feel like that’ll take us a long way.”
Virginia will hit the road for its next game, visiting Boston College at 7 p.m. Wednesday.