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Game Changer

Feb 22, 2014, 11:25 PM EDT

(Photo/Geoff Burke) (Photo/Geoff Burke)

Mike Franz, the official 2013-14 men’s basketball beat writer for the In The Paint blog, is currently a sophomore at Holy Cross College. Over the course of the year Mike will bring you insight from within the student section, interviews with Fighting Irish players and stories from inside the team circle. You can follow Mike (and the rest of the Notre Dame student beat writing staff) on twitter at @JrNDBlogger.

Mike Brey’s squad took on the Virginia Cavaliers Saturday afternoon for an ACC showdown. The last time the two faced off, Virginia pulled away early to secure an easy win over the Irish. If you look at the box score you would certainly concur that the same happened on Saturday in Charlottesville as the Irish lost to Virginia, 70-49. However surprising as it may be, Notre Dame played Virginia close throughout the first thirty minutes and appeared as though they were in perfect position to get the upset win over the 14th-ranked Cavaliers.

At the end of the first half the score was tied at 30 and Pat Connaughton was having another great day on the court, shooting 60 percent from the field with eight points and two rebounds. As the second half began, Notre Dame was in a shooting “duel” with the Cavaliers, matching one another shot for shot. Nobody seemed like they could pull away from the other. That is until the 9:19 mark in the second half.

Up until then, Virginia led the Irish by just three, 46-43. Notre Dame had the ball and Zach Auguste went up for what appeared to be an easy dunk. Unfortunately, those two points would be denied as Justin Anderson of Virginia came from behind and swatted the ball away. Virginia proceeded to run the length of the court and convert a slam dunk of their own, invigorating the Virginia faithful in attendance.

In basketball, one play can change the outcome of the game completely. Don’t believe me? After Anderson blocked Auguste’s shot, the Cavaliers went on a 22-0 run. Throughout that run, Notre Dame missed seven shots from the field and two free throw attempts.

It is obvious that the Anderson block was absolutely demoralizing for the Irish. Mike Brey agreed: “That’s how fragile a game can be – because for about 30 minutes, I really liked what we were doing.” He continued, “Then we get the dunk blocked and they dunked on the other end and the whole ceiling caved in.”

It is a shame the Irish could not pull this one out. The team was really playing well together up until that game-changing point. The noise of the crowd and the momentum were totally in Virginia’s corner after that.

This was not the way Notre Dame wanted to end their road trip. Nonetheless, the Irish have a chance to improve their overall & conference record once again on Wednesday night as they take on Georgia Tech at home. Tip off is scheduled for 7:00 PM and the game can be seen on ESPN2.

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