Notre Dame's NCAA tournament luck endures. Again. And again. And now again

The University Notre Dame men's basketball team is the only team to reach the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament in each of the last two seasons.

N'WESTERN 68, VANDY 66: In Salt Lake City, Northwestern got its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory after Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably grabbed Wildcats guard Bryant McIntosh on objective, sending McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 15 seconds left.

Four players are scoring at least 13.5 points per game for Notre Dame, they are: Colson (17.5), V.J. Beachem (15.0), Matt Farrell (14.2) and Steve Vasturia (13.3).

The total has gone under in six of Notre Dame's last seven games.

LaChance missed a 3 on the next possession and eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-11) got another free throw.

The Fighting Irish are coming off an outstanding performance in the ACC tournament, making it to the championship game for the second time in three years before falling to the Duke Blue Devils 75-69 as 4.5-point dogs.

"I think our mental toughness needs to be the best that it's ever been", Farrell said. "We got out of the gate 5-0 by the skin of our teeth, and then here it comes".

Ivy League champions Princeton (23-6) opened the tournament against fifth-seeded Notre Dame, while 13th-seeded Winthrop faces Butler in early action. Friends and family have called from back home wishing him good luck.

Phillip recorded 16 points and made crucial free throws in the closing minutes.

"It was a great look for us", Tigers coach Mitch Henderson said.

There was no bigger key Thursday than Notre Dame's 3-point defense against the Tigers. Last year, the Irish trailed by 12 at halftime before beating MI; trailed with two seconds left before Rex Pflueger's tip-in downed Stephen F. Austin; and trailed by three with less than 30 seconds remaining before they topped Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.

Brey summed up Farrell's development succinctly: "He certainly feels like he belongs". And I think in this tournament, this nucleus of guys, just feel like as this thing was getting close, well, that's what we did all previous year.

Irish trainer Skip Meyer reacted immediately, tending to Pflueger and accompanying him to the locker room on the opposite end of the KeyBank Center.

After missing three of WVU's final four regular season games, Ahmad (11.3 points) has recovered from a back injury. As a standout at Marian, he was the star of the team before heading off to Princeton.

"It was something we've been through", forward Bonzie Colson said.

"It's March...that's all you have to say", said Farrell, who finished with 16 points on 6-of-9 shooting (3-of-5 from three) and was dying to say how angry he was with himself for not sealing the victory. "Then he hit the baseline jump shot and I turned and said, 'I guess he's okay".

Whatever ND did to build up their country-leading free throw percentage, they need to figure out how to channel that into late-game situations, when those free throws matter most and could mean the difference between a win and a loss. "That's how we were going to escape and we did escape". The Fighting Irish (26-9) claimed a 60-58 win behind Bonzie Colson's 18 points. Saturday's game against West Virginia is a big one.

  • Larry Hoffman