No. 5 Notre Dame ekes out 60-58 win over No. 12 Princeton in NCAA Tournament

Princeton had what it wanted: sophomore sharpshooter and Indiana native Devin Cannady launching an open three-pointer from the left wing for a chance to beat Notre Dame in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at Buffalo’s KeyBank Center.

Cannady’s high-arcing trey rimmed out, though, and the Fighting Irish hung on for a 60-58 victory, ending a remarkable Princeton (23-7, 14-0 Ivy) season that in the regular season culminated in winning the inaugural Ivy League men’s basketball tournament.

Cannady’s miss came following Notre Dame junior guard and Bridgewater, N.J. native Matt Farrell (an 80.8 percent free throw shooter) missing the front end of a 1-and-1 at the other end, giving Princeton the ball and a 59-59 deficit following Spencer Weisz’s defensive rebound.

The Fighting Irish tacked on a point with 0.3 seconds left following Cannady’s game-deciding miss.

Princeton senior guard Steven Cook missed a three-pointer that would have tied the game at 59-59 from the same area on the left wing with 19 seconds left, but a Pete Miller tip-in cut the Irish’s lead to 59-58, leading to Farrell’s front-end miss.

The Tigers trailed 45-34 with 13:49 left following a dunk by Wooden Award finalist Bonzie Colson but clawed back with improved outside shooting and stingy defense, collecting four Notre Dame turnovers in the next 6:14 (despite Notre Dame ranking first in the country in turnover percentage). Princeton also held the discombobulated Irish, including a gimpy Colson (nursing a tweaked ankle), to 1-for-10 shooting from the floor and 15 total points in the final 8:54.

Notre Dame also shot an uncharacteristically mediocre 14-for-21 (66.7 percent) from the free throw line, having entered the game with the highest team free-throw percentage in the nation.

But Princeton could not take full advantage, shooting a paltry 8-for-31 (25.8 percent) from three-point range, including 2-for-18 from Tigers other than seniors Weisz and Cook. Princeton’s offense struggled to convert from deep all game, with Weisz scoring 11 of Princeton’s first 23 points during the Tigers’ first-half cold spell. The Tigers entered the game ranked 31st in the nation in percentage of shots taken from three-point range, and Princeton’s reliance on the long ball hurt Thursday.

Notre Dame held a 36-30 halftime edge, taking the lead from Princeton at the 9:36 of the first half and never trailing again.

Princeton was led by Weisz and his four assists, five rebounds and team-leading 15 points in 40 minutes, as well as Cook’s 11 points and seven boards. Notre Dame was propelled to victory by Colson’s 18 points in 31 minutes and Farrell’s 16 points, including a 3-for-5 clip from deep.

The defeat is Princeton’s first since December 20, snapping a 19-game winning streak that was second-longest in the nation, behind only Vermont.

The Tigers’ loss marks the first defeat for Ivy teams seeded No. 12 in the NCAA Tournament, following Yale’s win over No. 5 Baylor last year and Harvard’s victory over No. 5 Cincinnati in 2014. Ivy League teams are 5-8 in the NCAA Tournament since 2010, with Princeton’s ’17 and ’11 teams and Harvard’s ’15 and ’12 teams the only Ancient Eight squads to lose in the Round of 64.

Princeton’s last NCAA Tournament appearance, in 2011, also ended in a two-point defeat, a 59-57 loss to Kentucky.



3 thoughts on “No. 5 Notre Dame ekes out 60-58 win over No. 12 Princeton in NCAA Tournament”

  1. Princeton looked nervous in the first half–Cook even missed a wide-open layup off a great opening tipoff play from Miller. But by the end of the game it was pretty clear that ND could not defend one-on-one against Princeton’s drivers and posters, leaving wide-open treys on the perimeter after kick-out passes. And the Tigers had the Irish very uncomfortable on their defensive end, taking away threes and making their passing game ineffective.

    It seemed like it took a while for Princeton to get used to the strength of Notre Dame’s players holding on to the ball and using their bodies on drives and post-ups. And Coulson came through for the Irish despite being in pain. But in terms of which team got more good looks at the basket, I think it was Princeton.

  2. This game mimicked in many ways Princeton’s gutsy come from behind victory over Penn in the Ivy Tournament semifinal last week at the Palestra. In both games, Princeton trailed virtually the entire time until having a chance to win (or tie) at the end of regulation after the opposing team missed a key one-and-one from the foul line. And in both games, Princeton really struggled to make shots, especially from 3-point territory. Princeton would have won both games handily had it been able to convert its open 3’s like it had most of the year; however, defense was really the key to Princeton’s success this season and the defense did a tremendous job keeping the Tigers competitive in both games even while the offense struggled mightily to convert open shots. This was true in the Palestra last weekend and it was evident in Buffalo as well. Unfortunately, I think nerves and lack of tournament experience probably had a lot to do with the cold shooting in both games. All of that said, I really liked the way Mitch Henderson handled the post-game press conference in which he refused to express disappointment at Princeton missing an opportunity to notch another big win for the program. He said that he didn’t want any suggestion of bitterness to undercut the pride he had in what his players accomplished this year. I couldn’t agree more. Who amongst us Tiger fans thought that after losing two senior starters early in the season our team would rise up to win 19 straight games, including huge, tense, competitive battles against Penn, Harvard, and Yale? The proper epilogue for this season is to note that this magnificent crew of seniors led Princeton back to the top of the Ivy League, where the program belongs. Winning a game in the NCAA Tournament would have been the cherry on top, but I am extremely grateful to Coach Henderson and the players for giving the fans of Princeton Basketball a spectacular ride this season.


Leave a Comment