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Notre Dame

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Associated Press
Notre Dame center Garrick Sherman, right, shoots over Virginia’s Anthony Gill during their game Saturday in Charlottesville, Va.
No. 14 Virginia 70, Notre Dame 49

Struggling Irish seeking identity

– Mike Brey is still trying to figure out the identity that best suits his Notre Dame team, and in what has been a trying first season in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Irish looked to be making strides Saturday.

Then No. 14 Virginia remembered its identity, and 30 solid minutes were erased in a flash.

“We tried a little bit of everything to stop them.” Brey said, and nothing worked.

The Cavaliers went from trailing 41-38 to leading 68-43, held the Irish scoreless for 9 minutes and scored 25 straight points at one point on their way to their 11th consecutive victory, 70-49, at sold-out John Paul Jones Arena.

“We didn’t take care of our business like men,” sophomore Zach Auguste said.

The Irish (14-14, 5-10 ACC) have three more regular season games before their first ACC tournament, and Brey likes the opportunities ahead. Their bye week comes just before they head to Greensboro, N.C., and Brey said he thinks they can use the time to refine that identity.

Putting the blowout in the past won’t be hard, he added.

“We can’t dwell on it much and we are who we are right now,” Brey said. “We have two games at home and we will take it from there.”

The Cavaliers (23-5, 14-1) are alone atop the ACC.

Akil Mitchell and Anthony Gill both scored 15 points for Virginia, and Justin Anderson helped fuel the run by blocking a dunk attempt by Auguste, bringing the crowd to its feet. The victory gave Virginia 14 conference wins for the first time.

Pat Connaughton led the Irish with 11 points, and Garrick Sherman had eight, but Notre Dame had that long scoreless drought until Demetrius Jackson’s layup with 2:32 left.

“They’ve had games like this where it looks like they’re on the ropes and then they have an explosion. Today was a nuclear explosion,” Brey said.

Notre Dame arrived looking to give Brey his 300th victory in his 14th season with the Irish, and after a slow start, Notre Dame closed the first half on a 15-4 run to pull even at 30.

The Irish continued to play well early in the second half, leading 41-38, but then fell apart.

With Mitchell and Gill attacking inside with success, Virginia scored five points to go ahead 43-41. After Sherman’s inside basket tied it at 43 with 11:25 to go, it was all Cavaliers.

Joe Harris made a 3-pointer, Gill scored inside and Anderson, who has a knack for huge defensive plays, denied Auguste as he tried to score on a putback dunk. The Cavaliers quickly headed the other way to a dunk for Gill, and the crowd emerged from an air of quiet concern with raucous celebrating.

Notre Dame missed 12 of its first 17 shots. The Irish trailed by as many as 12 points early, but rallied to make seven of their last eight shots in the closing run to halftime.