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Jan. 29, 2014

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. — More than 11 minutes remained in the second half at the Joyce Center when Notre Dame men’s basketball coach Mike Brey called his fifth timeout Tuesday night.

That, as much as anything, speaks to UVa’s dominance in its first ACC game against the Fighting Irish. The Cavaliers led by 23 when Brey burned his final timeout, and they went up 24 on a 3-pointer by sophomore forward Evan Nolte with 7:24 left.

The Irish trimmed their deficit with a late rally, but Virginia still walked away with a 68-53 victory in its first visit to South Bend since Jan. 26, 1991.

The Wahoos “might be the most confident team in the league,” Brey said, “and they thoroughly beat us down tonight … We made some bad decisions, but they’re really good defensively and kind of imposed their will on us and broke our spirit a little bit. You look at one of these [defeats], and you’re amazed it only counts as one loss.”

The win was the fourth straight for the `Hoos (16-5, 7-1), who trail only No. 2 Syracuse (19-0, 6-0) in the ACC. Each of UVa’s conference wins has been by at least 12 points. Virginia is off to its best start in ACC play since 1982-83.

“We’re playing our best basketball right now, and it’s amazing how good we can be if just we continue to play like this,” center Mike Tobey said. “It really flows great and really gets the other team out of their stuff.”

The Cavaliers weren’t perfect. They were outrebounded 30-26 and turned the ball over 12 times, which was 12 times more than head coach Tony Bennett would have liked. Still, he had few complaints after his team’s latest victory.

“There were times we were all locked in playing real well, and then there were some stretches where we sort of checked out collectively, and that’s where we were a little sloppy on both ends,” Bennett said. “But the majority of the game for us was quality, and it was good to see the balance in that game for us.”

Nine of the 10 Cavaliers who played Tuesday night scored, led by guard Malcolm Brogdon (16 points) and Tobey (14). A 6-11 sophomore, Tobey made 7 of 10 shots from the floor and generally had his way around the basket.

“My last couple games, I’ve struggled inside a little bit with my touch,” he said. “I feel like tonight I really got it back, so it’s good.”

Bennett said: “When Mike can get established, that gives us that balance of an inside threat and some outside scoring, and then I think we become harder to defend. He’s evolving. You see those flashes, and as he continues to mature and get stronger, I really like what’s in front of him.”

As impressive as Tobey was, he couldn’t match Brogdon’s all-around brilliance. A 6-5 redshirt sophomore, Brogdon hit 7 of 10 shots from the floor, including 2 of 3 from beyond the 3-point arc, and had a career-best five steals. He matched his career highs in rebounds (seven) and assists (six).

“His stat line was terrific,” Bennett said. “He was very complete, and he’s showing that, and he’s strong. I like it when you see him in traffic. He’s going to come down with those big rebounds.”

Notre Dame cancelled classes on Monday and Tuesday because of the dangerously cold weather, and students turned out in force for the game. They had little to cheer. Brogdon opened the scoring with a 3-pointer at the 19:28 mark, and the Cavaliers were ahead to stay.

The Irish (11-10, 2-6) came in averaging 10.1 turnovers per game. They had 13 in the first half and finished with 20. The `Hoos turned those mistakes into 29 points.

“They’re a great team, and they do a lot of great things,” Notre Dame guard Demetrius Jackson said.

Virginia led by 20 with 4:15 to play in the first half, and the Irish seemed on the brink of collapse. But guard Pat Connaughton woke the crowd with a 3-pointer, and after Anthony Gill scored inside for UVa, Notre Dame closed the half on a 9-0 run to cut its deficit to 10.

“I had that feeling where it was too easy for you in the first half,” Bennett said. “You got too comfortable, and now Notre Dame’s in the game. But then I thought we really re-established.”

Indeed, the momentum Notre Dame carried into halftime quickly evaporated once play resumed. Freshman point guard London Perrantes opened the second-half scoring with a trey for UVa, which pushed its lead back to 19 before the Irish finally scored again.

“At the end of the first half they made a little bit of a run,” Brogdon said, “and we knew in the second half it was going to take the first four minutes to sort of come out and build our lead again and make them know that we were still going to play our game, that we weren’t just going to let them come back on us, and I feel we did that.”

Perrantes finished with five assists and no turnovers, and he had two of UVa’s 14 steals. He took only four shots, but the Cavaliers have plenty of other scorers these days. They shot 53.8 percent from the floor Tuesday night.

“We were sharing the ball, making the extra pass, trying to wear them down a little bit, and kind of passing up a decent shot for a better one,” Bennett said.

After the Cavaliers’ convoluted journey from John Paul Jones Arena to South Bend on Monday, a trip that took five hours longer than originally planned, Bennett wasn’t sure how his team would respond Tuesday night.

In the visiting team’s quarters at the Joyce Center, Bennett said, the “coaches’ locker room is right next to the players’ locker room. Usually I can’t hear them before a game and that’s probably a good thing. But I could hear them in there chattering, and they seemed awfully loose, and I thought, `Boy, I don’t think we’re ready.’ But the coaches said, `Actually, you just never hear them. That’s how they always are.’ And they did come out ready.”

Brogdon said: “I think that speaks to our maturity and our focus that we’ve developed this season, just not letting things crack our unity, whether it’s outside circumstances or, really, anything else. We just come out and we try to play Virginia basketball every night.”

The analysts on ESPNU’s broadcasts were coaching legends Bob Knight and Digger Phelps. Bennett is rarely seen courtside before games, but he came out to visit with Knight and Phelps while the Cavaliers warmed up.

For part of Knight’s long tenure at Indiana, his coaching counterparts in the Big Ten included Bennett’s father, Dick, at Wisconsin.

“To be able to spend some time with Coach Knight and Coach Phelps, that was special,” Tony Bennett said. “My father’s had by far the biggest influence on my coaching career, but Coach Knight’s had a big influence [too] … It was great to be able to at least shake his hand and say hey to him and pass on my father’s best wishes to him. That was a treat.”

UP NEXT: The Cavaliers are back on the road this weekend. At 12:30 p.m. Sunday, in a game ESPNU will broadcast, UVa plays at Pittsburgh (18-3, 6-2), which is ranked No. 18 in the latest Associated Press poll.

That will be the second straight home game for Pitt, which lost 80-65 to No. 17 Duke on Monday night at the 12,508-seat Petersen Events Center.

In a series that dates to the 1951-52 season, the `Hoos are 7-3 against the Panthers. The teams haven’t met since Dec. 3, 1991, when Virginia won 84-80 in an ACC/Big East Challenge game at the Richmond Coliseum.

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