Princeton (23-7) saw their 19-game winning streak and dreams for a deep run in the NCAA tournament come to a sudden end when they lost a 60-58 West Regional first round decision to Notre Dame (26-9) in Buffalo, New York.
Princeton sophomore Devin Cannady, who hails just a three-point shot away from the Notre Dame campus in nearby Mishawaka, Indiana, had the ball in his hands, with an open look to win the game, but narrowly missed the three point attempt as time expired.
Princeton was led by Ivy League Player of Year Stephen Weisz who had 15 points while playing the entire game. Steven Cook added 11 (seven boards) and Myles Stephens chipped in with 10.
Notre Dame was led by National Player of the Year candidate Bonzie Colson who had a game-high 18 points. Matt Farrell added 16 and Steve Vasturia added 10 points (eight boards).
The Irish held a 36-30 lead at the half.
A stingy Tiger defense in the second half nearly pulled off the upset as they limited the Irish’s V. J. Beachem to just two points and Rex Pflueger, who left the game to have stiches early in the first half, was held to four.
Notre Dame seemed very much in control of the final outcome holding a twelve point lead with under ten minutes in regulation. But the Tigers defense stiffened and the Fighting Irish was held scoreless for nearly seven minutes while Princeton closed to within one, 55-54.
Notre Dame, one of the nation’s best free throw shooting teams, had a woeful game from the line shooting just 66.7%.
Coach Mitch Henderson’s Tigers had a number of opportunities to tie or take the lead as the clock wound down, including Cannady’s final look, but came up empty on each occasion.
Coach Mike Brey, in postgame remarks aired on CBS TV, was obviously relieved that his squad escaped with the win.
“I was really pleased with our defense today. Princeton was a load to defend,” said Brey. “We weren’t in our best offensive rhythm, so we had to depend upon our defense.”
For Cannady, who had a chance to make a March Madness moment with his final attempt, it was a bitter sweet moment. “I had a good look and it is a shot that I have taken before.”
The Fighting Irish will face West Virginia (27-8) in the second round on Saturday, March 18.
Day 1 Recap
The first round of the tournament pretty went according to plan.
Middle Tennessee State created quite a buzz with their win over Minnesota and Northwestern held on to defeat Vanderbilt for their first tournament win in school history.
The tournament should heat up with the Saturday/Sunday second round games.
Actually, there was more excitement off the court than on as Indiana parted company with Tom Crean. By my count that leaves five prime jobs open with Indiana the crown jewel. The other openings exist at NC State, Washington, Illinois and California.
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