Notre Dame advanced to its second ACC Tournament Championship game in three years on Friday night by winning their rubber match with Florida State 77-73 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Irish and Seminoles split their regular season series, but the Irish took the tiebreaker tonight to advance to the ACC Tourney Title game against Duke on Saturday night.
Notre Dame struggled early to get open looks but used hot three pointing shooting to pull away in the first half. The Irish trailed midway through the first half but after a Bonzie Colson jumper gave Notre Dame a 17-16 lead with 9:23 remaining and the Irish never looked back. The Irish led by 16 points at half-time and by as many as 18 points in the second half, before surviving a late run by the Seminoles.
The Irish held an 11 point lead with less than three minutes to go, but some uncharacteristically poor free throw shooting allowed Florida State to give the Irish a bit of a late scare. Both Matt Farrell and Rex Pfluger missed the front end of one and ones in the final minute leaving the door open for the Seminoles.
Florida State was unable to close that door, however, and a three pointer with 0.5 seconds remaining ended up making the score look closer than it really was. Notre Dame held a double digit lead for most of the second half thanks in large part to their three point shooting. The Irish knocked down 13 three pointers – four more than their season average – while connecting on just under 50% of their attempts.
While the Irish were hot from beyond the arc, they were more than charitable at the foul line. The nation’s top free throwing shooting team at over 80% made 8 of 13 free throws. Before Colson and Pfluger knocked down four straight free throws in the final 20 seconds following Farrell and Pfluger’s earlier misses though, Notre Dame was just 4-9.
Notre Dame’s big three led a balanced attack with Colson and Steve Vasturia each chipping in 18 points with Farrell adding 15. Notre Dame also got a strong effort from reserve Matt Ryan with 11 points including three three pointers. Farrell, Vasturia, and Ryan accounted for 10 of Notre Dame’s 13 made three pointers.
Notre Dame’s strong three point shooting and its hallmark ball security allowed them to survive a rebounding disadvantage of 18 (41-23) to the bigger, taller Seminoles. Not even Bonzie Colson, the ACC leader in rebounds, reached double digits on the boards for the Irish. The Irish did, however, hold a 8-18 edge in turnovers.
Notre Dame Headed to ACC Championship Game Again
The Irish struggled with Florida State’s size at times but in the end the Irish advanced to the ACC Championship game by doing what they do best – pass the ball, limit turnovers, and hit three pointers. When Notre Dame does those three things, they can play with anyone in the country. And they will need to do it all again to take out surging Duke tomorrow night.
Duke advanced to the title game by knocking off their arch rivals – the ACC’s #1 seed North Carolina Tar Heels. Notre Dame lost to Duke 84-74 earlier this season at Purcell Pavilion. Mike Brey, however, is 5-3 head to head against his mentor Coach K.
Notre Dame won the ACC Tournament two years ago by knocking off Duke and North Carolina in back to back nights for their first ACC Championship. The Irish and Blue Devils will tip off at 9:00 PM ET from Barclays Center with the game being televised on ESPN.