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Grant leads Notre Dame to best start since 1974

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BLACKSBURG, Va. — Senior guard Jerian Grant led four Notre Dame players in double figures with 18 points, and the eighth-ranked Irish shot well, rebounded well and never trailed en route to an 85-60 victory Thursday over Virginia Tech.

Notre Dame (18-2, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won for the 14th time in 15 games. The Irish have lost only once — to No. 2 Virginia — in the past 60 days. After winning one road game last season, its first in the ACC, Notre Dame is 3-0 away from home in conference play this season, including wins at Georgia Tech and North Carolina.

The Irish are off to their best 20-game start since opening 19-1 in 1973-74. The 85 points were the most the Irish had ever scored in an ACC game, and the 25-point margin of victory was their largest in an ACC game.

Notre Dame’s six league wins last season came by a combined 23 points.

“I’m really pleased with our effort tonight on both ends of the floor,” Irish coach Mike Brey said. “We were really good defensively in both halves. What helped us tonight was we were able to get one-and-dones on the run. And, when we run, we are really potent.”

Senior swingman Pat Connaughton tallied 17 points and 10 rebounds, achieving his sixth double-double of the season and the 13th of his career.

Junior power forward Zach Auguste scored 16 points, and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson added 12. The Irish starters spent the final four-plus minutes on the bench. Grant added seven rebounds and a team-best six assists.

“I just don’t know if there is a better player than him in the country and how he kind of stirs the drink for his team,” Brey said.

The Irish finished with a 43-29 rebounding advantage, their most-lopsided margin in league play.

Virginia Tech (8-10, 0-5) lost its sixth straight, trailing by as many as 29 points.

Guard Ahmed Hill led the Hokies with 13 points. Guard Jalen Hudson added 12, and guard Devin Wilson finished with 11.

Playing in front of a near-sellout and the first of three straight league home games, the Hokies may have wanted to impress the Cassell Coliseum crowd a little too much. Virginia Tech struggled to make shots when the game was close, often missing even the easiest of looks — a dunk, a layup, a short jumper.

Virginia Tech shot 38.7 percent.

“We became very offensive sensitive in the second half,” Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams said. “I think when you are playing against a team and constantly taking the ball out of the net, you want to turn it into a scoring contest and you think your stops will come after you score a basket.

“That’s not the right way to play.”

The Irish opened a comfortable lead in the second half thanks to strong 3-point shooting. They finished 12-for-26 (46.2 percent) from long range while moving to 3-0 on the road in league play for the first time in school history.

The Irish finished with 19 assists, the most they’ve had this year in a league game.

“I don’t think a lot of people in the country play like us and move the ball like us,” Brey said. “It’s just a heck of a weapon.”

Notre Dame twice led by as many as 13 points in the first half and held a 38-28 lead at intermission.

Auguste scored 10 points in 11 first-half minutes. Hill had seven first-half points for the Hokies.

Notre Dame connected on six of 13 3-point attempts before halftime and posted a 21-11 rebounding advantage.

“It’s hard to figure out where your help can come from,” Williams said.

The Irish made four of their first five shots and opened a 17-6 lead less than seven minutes in. Auguste was a key reason. Back in the starting lineup for the first time in three games, Auguste erupted for eight points in just over five minutes.

“It was a big night for Zach Auguste,” Brey said.

Virginia Tech was again without two key players. Guard Justin Bibbs, the team’s leading scorer at 13.6 points per game, missed his second consecutive game due to a concussion.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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