The Notre Dame Fighting Irish men’s advanced basketball team advanced to its first Elite Eight appearance in 36 years with an 81-70 win over the Wichita State Shockers on March 26.
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back in the Elite Eight after a 36-year absence.
The Irish seized control in the early going and went on to establish their might over a game Wichita State Shockers squad, 81-70, to advance in the 2015 NCAA Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Oh., per USA Today’s Gerry Ahern.
Ahern stresses the Irish were able to pull away because of their hot shooting: they shot 9-of-19 (47 percent) from three-point distance and 56 percent overall. Sophomore point guard Demetrius Jackson led Notre Dame with 20 points while senior guard-forward Pat Connaughton had 16 points.
Notre Dame had four players score in dougle-digits. Zach Auguste and Steve Vasturia each had 15 points for the Irish. Auguste shot 6-of-6 from the field while Jerian Grant dished out a game-high 11 assists. per ESPN stats.
Notre Dame rolls past Wichita State in Sweet 16, 81-70. Fighting Irish advance to their 1st Elite 8 since 1979. pic.twitter.com/MomoUEXrC6— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) March 27, 2015
Fred VanFleet was the Shockers’ top scorer with 25 points while Darius Carter added 22, according to ESPN stats.
Ahern says Carter gave Wichita State a one-point lead with four minutes gone by in the second half. The Shockers held the lead for all of 12 seconds until Jackson waxed hot with two straight three-pointers to give Notre Dame the lead for good.
The assault continued as the Irish established their biggest lead of the contest at 75-56 on two free throws by Jackson with 4:36 left to play, per ESPN.
Irish head men’s basketball coach Mike Brey discussed his team’s biggest victory in quite some time with Ahern:
“Demetrius was in attack frame of mind. This group is cruel, I love it, it’s a great trait. They’re really cruel competitors. When they feel a little blood in the water, as Pat said, at one of the timeouts, they go for it again and I think that’s why they’re special and playing for a regional championship on Saturday.”
For his part, Jackson told USA Today the Irish’s execution and poise made the difference in this one:
“We really do a great job of sharing the ball, finding a great shot every possession. The guys step up and make huge shots. It’s a really fun way to play when we play the game that way so we want to continue doing that and continue getting better.”
Fighting Irish advance!
Notre Dame is headed to its first Elite Eight since 1979 after beating Wichita State, 81-70. pic.twitter.com/944RXQkMJw— ESPN College BBall (@ESPNCBB) March 27, 2015
VanFleet told Ahern the Shockers’ inability to stop the Irish in their paint ultimately spelled their doom:
“Yeah, we felt good, obviously battling back. We started off the first half terrible with being down 18 to 5 or whatever it was. So battling all the way back, we wanted to open up the second half in a good way and we did that.
“And then they made some threes, but I think we gave them too many easy looks inside. We can live with the threes but they just shot layup after layup. It seemed like, and we just for whatever reason couldn’t stop them.”
The Shockers fell to 30-5 on the season while the Irish upped their record to 32-5, per ESPN.
Notre Dame will now face the unbeaten Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite Eight on Saturday. Kentucky, behind Trey Lyles’ 14 points and Andrew Harrison’s 13 points, routed the West Virginia Mountaineers, 78-39, on Thursday.
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