NCAA Tournament: Notre Dame survives late push from Princeton

Posted March 17, 2017

Notre Dame narrowly avoided a 12-5 upset in Buffalo in the opening game of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon, holding off Ivy League hopeful Princeton - which missed a late shot for the lead - 60-58. In one of the biggest games of Princeton's history, the Tigers gave Notre Dame everything they had and came up just short.

Notre Dame 60, Princeton 58 - Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and Notre Dame survived a first-round NCAA Tournament scare by pulling out a 60-58 win over Princeton. Spencer Weisz led Princeton with 15 points. Head coach Mike Brey has repeatedly called this his "best defensive team" he's had in his 17 seasons at Notre Dame.

On the same night in 1977, West Virginia defeated Bucknell 112-71 in the last time those two schools met. While they were able to make a few clutch corner threes in the first half, Princeton couldn't hit long range shots with consistency.

Notre Dame should be in confident mood; they are the only team to reach the Elite Eight of the last two March Madness tournaments, and they will not be fazed the challenge ahead of them. And Brey said the close win over Princeton might be just what the team needs to spark another tournament run.

The Tigers led just once in the first half, building a 17-15 edge with 11:24 remaining, when Amir Bell scored on a transition drive, was fouled and completed the three-point play.

In stitches: Fighting Irish guard Rex Pflueger left the game about six minutes in with a cut to his left forehead after being elbowed by Princeton's Cook, who was driving the lane. The Tigers fouled Notre Dame guard Matt Farrell to stop the clock, and Farrell missed the front end of a one-and-one, giving Princeton a chance to take the final shot.

"I grew up a Notre Dame fan", Jake Whitfield, a former teammate of Cannady said.

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With the win the Irish advance to the second round of the tournament where they will face the victor of the West Virginia-Bucknell game later this afternoon. "That showed in the ACC Tournament that we became more detailed in that aspect of the game". Cannady converted a layup and one opportunity, Stephens had a monster slam to send the Princeton faithful into a frenzy, and the Tigers were staring at only a five point deficit with 5:19 to go.

Notre Dame's defense helped Princeton shoot only.258 from deep (eight of 31), with the Tigers attempting five more threes than two-point shots. For more than three minutes in the game's final 10 minutes, the Irish didn't score a point.

"This year has been awesome for us" Cook said. I've been on teams where that doesn't happen.

"We fought so hard, not just in this game but throughout the season", he said.

Both Notre Dame and Princeton had hit high percentages of three-pointers, committed precious few turnovers, nearly always made the extra passes and knocked down free throws as well as any other teams in the country. Cook had 11 points, seven rebounds and a steal. But we can cherish the legacy that they leave us with.

Princeton finished the season with a record of 23-7.