Finally healthy after injuries to Colson and Farrell almost wrecked a promising season, Notre Dame advanced to play Thursday night in the ACC quarterfinals against fifth-ranked and second-seeded Duke, the defending tournament champion.
Much like the previous two ACC tournament games today, we saw teams attempt to overcome massive double-digit deficits.
BUZZ WILLIAMS: We disintegrated.
Guards Justin Bibbs and Justin Robinson tallied a team-high 15 points apiece and forward Kerry Blackshear Jr. nearly posted a double-double with nine points and eight rebounds. We were OK offensively, not great. Didn't guard the ball.
"They forced help, made some threes", Williams said. "Just completely fell apart the last 15 minutes defensively". Clemson will open their ACC tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday.
Tenth-seeded Notre Dame reclaimed the lead for good in fittingly absurd fashion, as Bonzie Colson banked in an off-balanced 3-pointer as the shot clock buzzer sounded with 2:02 left in the game.
A quick, aggressive Virginia Tech defense throttled the Irish shooters, as Notre Dame then misfired on 10 of 11 shots until an Austin Torres bucket at 1:43.
After the win against VT, Notre Dame now has a 72 percent chance to get into the NCAA tournament.
Now with a win over Virginia Tech, and a pending matchup with a college basketball blue-blood in Duke, Notre Dame can make its case as to why the selection committee should pick it.
In what is sure to be one of the most talked-about games in recent Virginia Tech history, the Hokies lost 71-65 to Notre Dame Wednesday in the second round of the ACC Tournament.
Colson, Notre Dame hold off Pitt 67-64 in ACC Tournament
Things looked dire for the 10th seeded Irish who were desperately fighting for their NCAA tournament lives after going 18-13 (8-10 ACC) in the regular season. Robinson added seven assists, while Bibbs nailed three from beyond the arc.
Virginia finished the season with a 17-1 conference record after beating Notre Dame 62-57 Saturday.
"He's a flopper and he flopped really hard, sold it to the refs", Clarke said in a one-on-one with Mike Barber of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "It was just a great win for us, and it was kind of emotional", Farrell said. The Cardinals have a fairly vanilla resume and are just 5-12 against Quadrants 1 and 2, but they don't have any bad losses and have fairly solid metric numbers. "We've got to start games like that". "We've got the best strength of schedule we've had in years".
The defense was doing all they could in the first half, but that didn't carry into the second half.
As fans angrily expressed on Twitter, there were plenty of questionable whistles for both teams, and no whistle loomed larger than the technical foul called by Raymond Styons on Tech's Chris Clarke for pushing Matt Farrell (game-high 22 points) in a dead-ball situation with 7:45 left.
The difference, though, was Colson. The 10th-seeded Irish defeated Pittsburgh 67-64 in the first round before knocking off Virginia Tech by six in the second round.
Noted Irish senior Martinas Geben, "The first couple of minutes in the second half we gave up two layups right away". Notre Dame got back to within 14 points with 11:28 to play, but another Blackshear three pushed the Hokies' lead back to a seemingly comfortable 17 points. But even as Notre Dame edged ahead during the opening minutes, the game was trending Tech's way.
"Backboard is there for a reason", Colson said with a smile.
"You know, it's easy to say", Brey said.