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.
What helps ND the most is they have multiple players that can contribute. Yesterday it was Auguste. Tomorrow it could be Grant, or Connaughton, or Colson, or….well need I go on. Or any combination of those players. That makes them a dangerous team for anyone they play. They like to play their games close it seems, and they should have beat Northeastern handily, but NE came with upset on their mind. And a win is a win in the tournament. It’s completely irrelevant if it’s by 2 points or 20. Perhaps this will be a wake up call to the team too. Had they won handily after winning the ACC, there may have been a tendency to get too overconfident. So now they know they have to fight for every point. Also, a lot of times this year they seem to play up to their opponents letter. Butler is a better team, and ND will likely play to a higher level.
They’ve had a great year to this point. A Sweet 16 is a must for it to be considered a successful year, an elite 8 vs Kentucky would be stellar. And by then, anything is possible. Kentucky would be the heavy favorite, and rightly so, but ND has shown this year an ability to hang with the best of them. I think Kentucky would find the Irish a tough opponent who will not let them off easy. Frankly, with our potent offense, if I were a Kentucky fan, ND would probably be the team in my bracket I’d be worried about the most.
HURLS, NEs got nothing to be ashamed about, giving ND a tougher challenge than both Duke and NC!
Great win. Obvious dangerous game with expected let-down after that great ACC tourney, vs. Miami (first half, anyway), Duke and NC. Good teams can be flat and win- ND must have missed ten lay ups, but NE played loose and had big post advantage in the first half with Auguste and Colson sitting after getting two fouls early. But Zach’s 2nd half performance with 25 points total again reinforces the hope that NDs post players have come of age at the right time of the year. Vasturia, Jackson and even Connaughton seemed tentative, but NDs D’ played well. Ah! Indeed, Jerian Grant is the MAN! Falling behind in the first half with both post players out, the rightful ACC MVP Grant scored all nine points during a critical time, going 4/4 from the floor with two key assists to get ND the 4 point lead at half, leading to the ninth consecutive win for NDBB when leading at the half, and 26/28! They’ll need to play better on Saturday, and I fully expect they will!
Go Irish! The beat goes on for this extraordinary year.
What a game, eh? (at the risk of sunning like a hockey player) Watched in a restaurant at work, downtown Boston, lunch-time. I started ND, 1985. Hit by a car 10-days later. Unsuccessfully returned to ND with physical and mental (head injury) injuries. Enrolled at NU after ND-venture in 1989, finishing in 1995. SUCCESSFULLY. So I watched the game in a unique situation. I COULD NOT LOSE! Of course, I am a Domer to-the-quick, or to-the-bone, or to-the-essence, or whatever; but I just had fun watching the game!
Go Fightin’ Huskies!