BUFFALO, New York – The Fighting Irish entered Thursday looking to advance beyond the opening round of the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive season, and while it was a little too close for comfort, the Fighting Irish did just that.
Led by Bonzie Colson (18 points), Matt Farrell (16 points), and senior guard Steve Vasturia (10 points) the Fighting Irish defeated the Princeton Tigers 60-58 in front of a raucous crowd the KeyBank Center on Thursday afternoon, punching their ticket to the round of 32 for the third consecutive year, and won their seventh game in their last nine in the annual NCAA Tournament.
With Princeton holding a 17-15 lead over the fifth seeded Fighting Irish with 11:24 to play in the first half, Bonzie Colson and Matt Farrell helped propel a 10-0 run to give the Irish a 25-17 lead, and eventually a slim 36-30 lead at the end of the first half. Colson and Farrell combined for 18 of the Irish 36 points in the first half of the game.
The second half began all Irish, as Notre Dame outscored the Princeton Tigers 9-4 to open the frame, and stretching their lead to 45-34 in the first six minutes of the second half.
Notre Dame would see their lead cut down once again, this time to just five points after Princeton went on an 11-5 charge, and the Irish lead was down to just five at 50-45 with 8:35 to play on Thursday afternoon, and then 53-51 with under five minutes to play after the Tigers continued to push the Fighting Irish to the brink in their opening match up.
Bonzie Colson would stretch the Fighting Irish lead back to five with four consecutive buckets in the final minutes of the game, giving the Irish a five point, 59-54 lead with just over a minute left to play. Princeton would cut the Irish lead to just one again, after a Pete Miller tip-in made the score 59-58 with 16 seconds to go.
The Tigers would have one last chance at the upset bid after the Irish missed the second of a one-and-one free throw series, but Devin Cannady‘s heave in the final seconds of the game was off, and Steve Vasturia grabbed the rebound for the Irish, securing a 60-58 victory, and an opportunity to play on.
Note Dame will take on the fourth seeded West Virginia Mountaineers in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament, the date and start time is still to be determined at this time.