The third seeded Fighting Irish needed every second of their second round match up against 13th seeded Northeastern to advance to the round of 32 on Thursday night. Upset minded Northeastern hung with Notre Dame all through the second half pulling with two points in the final minutes before the Irish sealed victory to advance to play the winner of Texas and Butler on Saturday.
At times in the second half it looked like Notre Dame was about to open up the game and cruise to victory, but the Irish were unable to get past that hump and let Northeastern hang around until the very end.
Notre Dame was led by Zach Auguste’s 25 points and Jerian Grant’s 17. Where the Irish struggled though was on the glass where they were out-rebounded 33 to 17 with no Irish player recording more than 4 boards for the Irish. Notre Dame struggled from beyond the arch too with just six three point attempts while connecting on two.
The positive for Notre Dame, despite struggling against a #13 seed, is that Notre Dame had lost their last four NCAA Tournament games meaning every player on the Irish roster got their first taste of victory this afternoon. Hopefully the narrow margin of victory will serve as a wake up call for the Irish and they will come out as focused as they were last weekend during the ACC tournament when they knocked off both Duke and North Carolina to win the ACC Tournament Championship.
Notre Dame was not the only #3 seed to face adversity on Thursday though. The 3rd seeded Cyclones of Iowa State had their tournament run end before it ever started after getting knocked off by UAB. As I write this post #3 seed Baylor is getting all it can handle from Georgia State late in the second half as well.
Update: And now Notre Dame is just one of three #3 seeds to play so far to advance to the next round with Baylor falling to Georgia State as well.
For Notre Dame to get to the Sweet 16 they will have to hit the glass better and take more three pointers – any area where they have a chance to be dominant. The Irish are an elite offensive team though and should be able to bounce back over the weekend with a better offensive performance.
Notre Dame’s last NCAA Tournament victory game four years ago when the 2nd seeded Irish beat Akron 69=56 before losing to Florida State in the round of 32. Mike Brey and his staff will be getting to work immediately to make sure this year’s squad does not suffer the same fate.