Notre Dame Basketball Survives Scare from Princeton

In what’s quickly become a March Madness tradition for Notre Dame basketball fans, the Irish emerged with a tense victory following a first round scrum. The 2017 edition of this phenomenon came against the Princeton Tigers, who nearly hit a three-pointer in the closing seconds that likely would have sent the Irish back to South Bend.

Fans of Mike Brey’s squad could be excused if a sense of déjà vu enveloped their churning stomachs, having endured last year’s first round roller coaster against Michigan that required a huge second half comeback. Thursday’s game was more reminiscent of two years ago, when Notre Dame’s 12-point lead over Northeastern nearly disappeared before a turnover put the game away.

On Thursday, Notre Dame had never been able to shake the Tigers over the first 39 minutes, but seemingly were in control by holding a 59-54 lead with 1:10 left. Princeton reduced that deficit by two 16 seconds later and then made it a one-point game with 19 seconds left after Matt Farrell had missed a potential clinching jumper 10 seconds earlier.

Following the Tigers’ second basket, Farrell was fouled and went to the line. The junior, who entered the game as an 81 percent foul shooter, missed the front end of a one-and-one, with Princeton grabbing the rebound to possibly steal the victory. However, Devin Cannady’s three-point attempt with three seconds left was off and Steve Vasturia grabbed the rebound. Vasturia then made his first free throw before deliberately clanking the second to end the game.

While Vasturia’s miss can’t be held against him, Farrell’s errant toss was one six others that missed in 21 attempts at the line. That 14-for-21 performance was out of the ordinary for an Irish team that’s prided itself on success at the charity stripe all season. Bonzie Colson missed four of his 10 shots from the line, after an 80 percent success rate during the regular season.

Yet as has been shown all season, Notre Dame would not be advancing to the second round without Colson’s array of contributions. He led the team in scoring with 18 points, grabbed seven rebounds and handed out a pair of assists. On defense, he slapped away a pair of Princeton shots.

That defense kept the Tigers’ main weapon, the three-point shot, in check over the course of the game. Princeton managed to hit on just 26 percent of their 31 attempts, a drop of 12 percentage points from their regular season prowess from long range. Cannady had a rough afternoon in this department, hitting on only two of his 10 attempts, including the ill-fated last effort.

Farrell and Vasturia were the only other Irish players to score in double figures, collecting 16 and 10 respectively. Vasturia led the team with eight boards, while V.J. Beacham cleaned seven missed shots off the glass for Notre Dame.

Next up for Notre Dame Basketball

The reward for this win is a date on Saturday against Bob Huggins and the West Virginia Mountaineers. The Irish can expect full-court pressure throughout the game against a team that saw double-digit leads twice evaporate before closing strong in an 86-80 win over Bucknell.

To win this matchup, Notre Dame will need to break the stifling West Viginia press or slow things down in order to find their way to San Jose next week.

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  1. Whew! that was close seem to me the irish just went through the motions.Going to have to crank it up a notch or two to beat wv

  2. oh well, they can pass out the towels after next game. Take their shower and head back to South Bend. Bonzie is the only player who fights. Happy they won one. Bonzie will be missed. Don’t at all expect getting anywhere next year. Brey is a fine Coach with what little He has. Pfleuger will have to step up big next year. Matty “cold as ice” was a total flop today, He did put His hand up to alter the last attempt by The Tigers. A little over 5 months till kickoff.

    1. At this point it’s all about survive and advance. A lot of higher seeds got put to the brink today. If you’re going to criticize a player it’s Beachum. I don’t know how many he scored, if any, but he played a putrid game. Stood around on offense not setting picks, not moving to the ball, not blocking out. And terrible lazy D. You’d think he’d have a fire lit in him to get to a F4.
      Brey did not coach well and adapt to the game. Why concede and play Princetons slow down offense when ND had a clear rebounding advantage and could have played a more uptempo transition game? All that strategy did was allow P to stay in the game. Push the tempo and when you’re up by 11, pit the frickin hammer down and put the lesser team away. ND plays way too many close games which leaves too much to breaks and chance.

    2. Colson is only a junior and is likely coming back along with Farrell. ND will lose Vasturia and Beachem with Ryan and Gibbs likely jumping into the lineup.

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