CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) — In reigning national champion Virginia's battle to get back to the NCAA Tournament, Mamadi Diakite and his teammates are using the memories and experiences of last year and three nail-biter victories as a steadying force.
“The intensity reminded me of the tournament,” Diakite said after the Cavaliers tied the game late and outscored Notre Dame 3-2 in overtime to win 50-49.
“Both teams needed to win,” he said.
Braxton Key made a free throw with 2:04 left in overtime — the final points of the game — to provide the difference on a tough shooting night for both teams.
It was an ending that left Virginia coach Tony Bennett grateful for a 3-point try by Kihei Clark in the final minute that missed everything and landed out of bounds, one of many airballs on the night for both teams.
“The fact that it hit the out-of-bounds line let us set up our defense,” Bennett said. “Sometimes it's better to miss bad.”
Diakite scored 20 points for the Cavaliers (16-7, 8-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), including the turnaround jumper with 25.1 seconds left in regulation that forced the overtime. Jay Huff added eight points and nine rebounds and said the Cavaliers were well aware that it was a game both teams considered critical.
“We talked about that before the game,” he said, describing both teams as “bubble teams. ... It was a really important game for us as is every game, and I think they thought the same thing."
Key grabbed 13 rebounds for Virginia, which outrebounded the Irish 42-34.
Prentiss Hubb scored 12 and John Mooney had 11 points and 14 rebounds, his 20th double-double in 23 games, for the Fighting Irish (15-9, 6-7). They saw their four-game winning streak end.
“We thought it would be a rock fight. I told them it would. It was, and they're probably more accustomed to the rock fights than us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said.
Notre Dame had a chance to win, but Rex Pflueger's 3-pointer from in front of the Irish bench in the final seconds missed and Key tapped the ball away.
The Irish finished 20 of 61 from the field (33%) and Virginia was 19-51 (37%).
In the overtime, Diakite hit a two free throws to give Virginia the lead, and Hubb's fall-away tied it with 3:29 left. Key's free throw was the only point the rest of the way, the ball bouncing in after he air-balled the first attempt.
Virginia had trailed since the early going before a 10-0 run gave them a 43-38 lead. Diakite started it with a pair of free throws and Huff scored the last eight points, hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a baby hook. He also had a block in his personal flurry, drawing roars from the crowd, but they soon were silenced.
A basket by Diakite made it 45-40 with 6:48 left, but the Irish scored the next seven points until Virginia pulled even again on Diakite's tying turnaround.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish's winning streak coming in came at a good time, putting them in position to contend for an NCAA Tournament berth. It also came against teams they needed to beat in Wake Forest, Georgia Tech, Pittsburgh and on the road at Clemson, all below .500 in league play.
Virginia: Virginia has reached 30 points in the first half just once in its last six games with 30 at Louisville on Saturday. Through the last six, the Cavaliers have scored as many as 30 in a half just three times in their last 12 chances.
The Irish wrap up a three-game road trip at No. 7 on Saturday.
Virginia also goes on the road, playing at North Carolina in Saturday.