Notre Dame and Wisconsin advance to Sweet 16 via narrow victories

By Peadar Angelone

(Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
(Chris Lee/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)

No. 14 Stephen F. Austin’s run in the tournament was shut down just short of the Sweet 16 by No. 6 Notre Dame after a dramatic 76-75 victory by the Irish

The first half was an even game for both teams and featured five changes. Neither team managed anything better than a nine-point lead throughout the first fifteen minutes. The Irish managed to snag a one point 42-41 lead at halftime off of V.J. Beachem’s last-second 3-pointer.

Notre Dame made the most of this momentum with a 10-6 run in the early minutes of the second half. The run ended with Irish forward Demetrius Jackson throwing down a commanding slam.

The Lumberjacks saw some foul trouble with Thomas Walkup, who found himself stuck on the bench as the Irish rolled to a seven-point lead over the Lumberjacks.

With Walkup’s eventual return to the court, Stephen F. Austin came back to tie things up at the seven-minute mark, before grabbing a 66-64 lead only a minute later.

The final minutes saw both teams taking turns with the lead. Walkup didn’t waste his time on the court, coming up clutch with a twisting layup and later assisting Demetrius Floyd, who drilled a wide open three and gave the Lumberjacks a 73-70 lead.

Notre Dame trailed 75-74 with seconds remaining, but Rex Pflueger put in a last second tip to give the Irish the lead for good.

Notre Dame will match up against No. 7 Wisconsin, who upset no. 2 Xavier with a 66-63 victory. The win came in stunning fashion with Badgers guard Bronson Koenig nailing two 3-pointers in the last few seconds. His second trifecta was a buzzer beating corner three, and he faded into the Wisconsin bench and was immediately mobbed by teammates

Koenig, who had failed to land a single three in the first round of the tournament, nailed a deep one with 11.7 seconds left to tie the game at 63-63.

Xavier’s Edmond Sumner tried to break the tie with a desperate drive to the basket, but instead found himself called for an offensive foul against the Badgers’ Zack Showalter with only 4.3 seconds to go.

Wisconsin crossed half court and called a quick timeout as coach Greg Gard drew up a last second play focused on the perimeter. Off the inbound, Koenig nailed the three that sent the Musketeers packing short of the Sweet 16.

Wisconsin and Notre Dame will face off at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia this coming Friday, with the opening tip set for 7:27 p.m.

Peadar Angelone can be reached at [email protected].