CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — Kyle Guy had scored 18 points against Notre Dame before he attempted his first free throw, which came with 24 seconds remaining and Virginia clinging to a slim lead.
He made it, and the next one, and sank two more attempts to finally put the Irish away in the Cavaliers’ 60-54 victory on Saturday.
“I never doubted I was going to make them,” said Guy, who finished with 22 points.
De’Andre Hunter added 20 points, 13 in the second half, and 10 rebounds for the Cavaliers, who several times seemed poised to take command only to see the Fighting Irish come back. Notre Dame ultimately closed within 54-52 before Guy’s free throws sealed it.
“I just wanted to be more aggressive,” said Hunter, who did most of his damage from the high post, making mid-range jump shots when the Irish gave him room. “I felt like I was floating a little bit and I just got in the right spots and my teammates gave me the ball.”
Coach Tony Bennett was glad his team was put to the test, and that it passed.
“I think it’s good for us,” he said. “OK, shots are not going in. Are we going to be sound? Are we going to stay together and come up with big stops or find other ways? And that’s part of maturing as a team.”
The Fighting Irish closed to within 45-44 with 8:12 left. Hunter then scored six points during a 9-0 run for the Cavaliers (22-2, 10-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) as Notre Dame came up came up empty on six consecutive possessions and went more than five minutes without a point. Guy added a 3-pointer and it was 54-44 with less than five minutes to play.
But Virginia then went scoreless for more than four minutes, and Notre Dame (13-12, 3-9) closed to within 54-50. The Irish called timeout with 41 seconds left, and when Virginia inbounded the ball to Guy, Nate Laszewski stole it and scored, making it 54-52 and prompting a timeout by the Cavaliers before inbounding the ball again.
They got it across the midcourt line as Kihei Clark hit Guy with a long pass, and Guy was fouled and made both ends of a 1-and-1.
“I looked like Antonio Brown on that catch,” Guy said, comparing himself to the Pittsburgh Steelers’ star.
A dunk by John Mooney for the Irish and two more free throws by Guy finished it off for the Cavaliers.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey was pleased with his young team’s effort.
“That’s about as good as we got,” he said. “I’m proud of our group because they’re really good and can win the whole thing.”
T.J. Gibbs scored 17, John Mooney had 11 and 15 rebounds and D.J. Harvey scored 10 for Notre Dame.
Virginia led just 29-25 at halftime but looked poised to pull away after a 10-3 run early in the second half gave the Cavaliers a 39-30 lead, but the Irish responded with a 10-2 surge as Laszewski scored seven of the 10 points. That pulled them within 41-40 with just under 11 minutes to play and the Cavaliers never relinquished the lead, but also struggled to get much separation.
Gibbs scored Notre Dame’s first 10 points and was the only Irish player to score until Harvey’s basket with 6:41 left in the first half. Guy scored Virginia’s first eight points and was the only Cavaliers player to score until Ty Jerome’s 3-pointer with 11:15 left in the half.
Notre Dame: The Irish nearly pulled off a stunning upset against a Virginia team that hadn’t played since Monday and shot the ball poorly (19-52, 36.5 percent). The Cavaliers won 82-55 when they played in South Bend, Indiana, on Jan. 26.
“They played so much better than (when) we played them the first time,” Bennett said. “They were scrappier and competitive and they have ability. Guys can make plays. They’re coming off an ACC win, so they challenged us in that regard.”
Virginia: The Cavaliers had uncharacteristically averaged 13.5 turnovers in their past four games, but cleaned that up, at least in the first half when they had no turnovers. They did cough it up eight times in the second half and were outscored 9-1 in points off turnovers for the game.
Notre Dame: The Irish are at home against Wake Forest on Tuesday night.
Virginia: The Cavaliers play at No. 22 Virginia Tech on Monday night.