Notre Dame advances to Elite Eight
The Irish defeated Wichita State to clinch a spot in the regional finals for the first time in 36 years.
- Momentum sagging and Wichita State surging, Mike Brey called time out and offered his Notre Dame players a reminder.
There was no screaming. No frantic scribbling of Xs-and-Os. That's not Brey's style. Or his team's, either.
"I said, 'Fellas, been here before,' '' Brey said. "Little did I know it was going to be a lightning strike, a flat-out lightning strike."
One that carried the Irish all the way to the brink of the Final Four.
Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points and third-seeded Notre Dame blitzed the Shockers in the second half of a surprisingly easy 81-70 victory last night in the Midwest Regional semifinal to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 36 years.
The Irish (32-5) shot 75 percent (18-for-24) over the final 20 minutes, overwhelming the seventh-seeded Shockers (30-5) with a barrage of three-pointers, expert cuts to the basket and enough fancy passing to fill an And1 mixtape.
The 38-18 burst that turned a tight game into something else entirely came after Wichita State took its first and only lead on a layup by Darius Carter with 16:37 to go. Jackson drilled a three-pointer on Notre Dame's next trip down then added another one moments later.
After that, the Irish were gone. The lead ballooned to as many as 19 points before the Shockers settled themselves. By then, it was far too late.
"I've never seen a one-point lead get out of hand so quickly," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said. "It did tonight because of their firepower."
Pat Connaughton added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame and Jerian Grant had nine points and 11 assists as the Irish won their eighth straight.
Notre Dame will play unbeaten Kentucky tomorrow night with a Final Four spot on the line.
Fred VanVleet led Wichita State with 25 points and Carter had 22 points while playing on the home court of distant cousin LeBron James, but the Shockers simply couldn't keep up with the sharp-shooting Irish.
Wichita State appeared ready to take control after surviving an early first-half barrage when Carter's layup put them ahead. The Shockers - eyeing a rematch with the Wildcats in the regional final after Kentucky ended Wichita's perfect season last spring - were caught flat-footed as Notre Dame put on a show.
Once Grant decided to become a distributor after missing all five of his first-half shots, the Irish soared. Notre Dame hit eight straight shots at one point to propel the Irish to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1979, when Bill Laimbeer, Orlando Woolridge and Kelly Tripucka fell to Magic Johnson and eventual national champion Michigan State.
"It's like blood in the water, you feel it and you want to keep getting stops so you can keep running," Connaughton said. "It's something you can't get enough of."
Ron Baker had just nine points and went scoreless in the second half. Wichita State said it had the punch to keep pace with Notre Dame. The Shockers did for 25 minutes, after that the ACC Tournament champions took flight.