MEN'S BASKETBALL: Notre Dame narrowly escapes Princeton's upset bid in first round

NCAA Tournament West Region Huggins

The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish survived a late scare from the 12th-seeded Tigers and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 60-58 win on Thursday at the KeyBank Center in Buffalo, NY.

Thursday afternoon provided just another dose of heart palpitations in South Bend.

Notre Dame benefited from three straight defensive stops to begin the second session, and Princeton did not score until almost four minutes into the half.

Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia pulled down the rebound, was fouled and made one free throw to set the final score.

Colson led Notre Dame with a game-high 18 points, seven rebounds, two assists, a steal and two blocked shots.

This story has been corrected to reflect Notre Dame losing to Duke in the ACC final instead of semifinal. "But we weren't really anxious about that". It also helps that Notre Dame's veteran group has shown it can process different defensive game plans.

And while the Irish offense struggled in the second half, the Irish defense had to pick up the slack.




The Irish, who started the season for the first time ever at No. 1 in the AP Top 25, were dominated at home by top-ranked CT 72-61 in early December, were beaten at North Carolina State 70-62 in the Atlantic Coast Conference opener later that month and lost 71-69 at Tennessee in mid-January.

Irish junior forward Bonzie Colson and head coach Mike Brey talk to a reporter following their 60-58 win over Princeton in the NCAA tournament Thursday. That shouldn't happen - the law of averages - but we've been in so many of them, we really believe. I think we tried to get to the rim, but I thought Notre Dame, they're smart, they're tough.

Their first trip to the regional final wasn't much different. Privately, those around the Irish wished that Notre Dame played late Friday night as opposed to basically the first game on the first full day of the tournament. Ultimately, they came up short. In that game they were down by 10 points in the second half, but came back strongly to win in overtime, and they went on to defeat Yale in the title game.

"It was something we've been through", forward Bonzie Colson said. "The object of the game is to win, and we did that". We've worked on it since summertime.

"I think previous year we looked ahead a little bit more than we should have". I can't be more appreciative of them, especially as a senior. "But I think he's going to start turning it up".

The schools have only met three times, with Notre Dame winning the other two meetings. It probably will not blow out an opponent, which means it could lose any time. Regardless, the Irish advance - which is really all that matters at this point in the year. Vasturia was 3-for-12. That's a combined 4-for-21 (19 percent) from a pair of players who both shoot better than 43 percent from the field. V.J. Beachem, Farrell and Pflueger all played key roles last season. The Longhorns are the fourth team to earn 30 tournament berths, joining Tennessee (36), Georgia (32) and Stanford (31).

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