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Updated: Saturday, February 22, 2003 5:28 PM EST
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(10) Notre Dame 98, Virginia Tech 76
Virginia Tech Hokies
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Notre Dame Fighting Irish
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SOUTH BEND, Indiana (Ticker) -- Matt Carroll and Notre Dame gave Virginia Tech something to remember in its first visit to South Bend.

Carroll scored 25 points to lead three players that reached the 20-point plateau as the 10th-ranked Fighting Irish used a big second half for a 98-76 Big East Conference victory over Virginia Tech.

Notre Dame (21-5, 9-3 Big East West) moved into a first-place tie with Syracuse in the West division and improved to 14-0 at home. Pittsburgh can make it a three-way tie with a victory Saturday night against Rutgers.

Carroll scored 18 points in the second half as the Fighting Irish pulled away after settling for a 34-33 halftime lead.

After a sluggish first 20 minutes, Notre Dame opened the second half on a 22-8 tear, featuring eight points from Carroll, for a 56-41 advantage.

"We didn't force anything; we just took what the defense gave us and made the extra baskets," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "What we did today, we should do that all the time. As I told them at halftime, we can play with just about anybody."

Dan Miller scored 22 points and point guard Chris Thomas finished with 21 points and 13 assists. It was the second time this season the top three scorers for the Irish all scored at least 20 points - it also happened in a 98-92 victory over Texas on December 8.

"We showed our offensive power and that we are capable of putting up a lot of points," Miller said. "We have shown it throughout the season and we showed it again today. We just have to keep that type of tempo and attitude on offense."

Virginia Tech (10-15, 3-9 East) remained in a tie for sixth place with Miami in the East division. The Hokies have never been to New York for the conference tournament and only the top six teams qualify.

The Hokies' first visit to South Bend may have helped prevent them from a first visit to Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament. They suffered their ninth loss in 10 road games after a competitive first half.

"One of the great things about the Big East is that all of the environments are fantastic," Virginia Tech coach Ricky Stokes said. "This place ranks with all the others. There is no question the atmosphere was terrific and that Notre Dame is a very good basketball team. They are a well coached team and shoot the ball extremely well."

Notre Dame scored the game's first eight points and two free throws by freshman Torin Francis with 14:23 remaining before halftime supplied an 18-6 advantage. Virginia Tech slowly chipped away and Terry Taylor's layup just before intermission cut the deficit to 34-33.

Miller opened the second half with a 3-pointer and Notre Dame's offense continued to find openings in the second half. The Fighting Irish shot a sizzling 72 percent in the second half and scored 64 points.

"When you score 64 points in the second half, you have to be pretty efficient," Brey said.

Notre Dame shot 42 percent (11-of-26) from beyond the arc as Miller mailed four 3-pointers and Carroll and Thomas each drained three. Reserve forward Torrian Jones made 6-of-8 shots and had 12 points and nine rebounds.

"When we play patiently, trust each other on offense and pass the ball around, we are a hard team to stop," Jones said. "We just have to be focused and remain focused night in and night out."

Taylor, who was suspended for Wednesday's loss at Boston College, was just short of a career high with 27 points. Bryant Matthews was the only other player in double figures with 19 points.

The Fighting Irish held a commanding 43-28 edge on the glass as Thomas and Miller each had six boards. Notre Dame reached the 90-point plateau for the eighth time this year.

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