Notre Dame beats Wisconsin to advance to the Elite 8.
What a finish! This Notre Dame basketball team just finds a way to win. It may not be pretty, but they find a way. The first 37 minutes of play were anything but memorable for the Irish. Notre Dame was poor in almost every facet on offense; missed shots, turnovers, lack of ball movement, you name it the Irish didn’t it do it right. Luckily for the Irish, Wisconsin was just as bad. Both teams shot less than 40% in the first half, and combined for 29 turnovers for the game.
Things looked bleak after Vitto Brown drained a three-pointer with 28 seconds left to give the Badgers a 3 point lead, but then thats where junior captain Demetrius Jackson stepped up. Jackson had a very poor shooting night as he was 6-18 from the field. He didn’t let his shooting woes get to him, as he kept attacking the basket and playing lockdown defense. He spent a good portion of the second half on Bronson Koenig and held him to just 8 points on 3-12 shooting.
Notre Dame ended the game on an 8-0 run and Jackson scored 6 of them. He forced two huge turnovers late in the game that put the Irish over the top. After getting a layup to cut the lead to 1, Jackson then forced Nigel Hayes into a turnover, which Jackson cashed in on with a layup to give ND the lead.
Koenig would then miss a layup on the following possession. V.J. Beachem got the rebound and was fouled. He drain two free-throws to give the Irish a 3-point lead with 7 seconds left. Since ND had some fouls to give, Jackson was trying to foul Koenig, but instead he forced a steal and Koenig had to choice but to foul. Jackson drained both free-throws to complete the comeback.
All year Mike Brey has stressed how this team is Jackson’s team. He is the leader, and he stepped just like how a leader should. It wasn’t his best game by any means, but he didn’t let that get to him. Props to Jackson for not hanging his head and not backing down. He finished the night with 16 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
V.J. Beachem kept up his hot shooting as he poured in a game high 19 points on 7-11 shooting and 3-5 from three-point range. Zach Auguste had a tough night guarding Ethan Happ, but he posted his third straight double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds. It was his 8th double-double in his last 9 games.
The Irish have shown so far in this tournament that they find ways to win. They can win ugly. They can win looking good. They can win in any number of ways. The culture has definitely changed over the last two seasons. This was the type of game Notre Dame would have lost prior to last season. Nonetheless, whoever the Irish get in the Elite 8 (either North Carolina or Indiana) they will have to play significantly better on the offensive end if they want to advance to their first Final Four since 1978.