WVU knocks off Notre Dame 83-71
No. 4 seed West Virginia (28-8) used a strong offensive start and an aggressive defensive performance to defeat fifth-seeded Notre Dame 83-71 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Friday afternoon.
This game featured an interesting matchup between a West Virginia team that forces the most turnovers per game and a Notre Dame team that commits the fewest turnovers per game.
It was Press Virginia who would win this battle, forcing 14 Notre Dame turnovers, helping the Mountaineers advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the second time in three years.
Overall, the Mountaineers shot 50-percent from the field, 57-percent from downtown and out rebounded Notre Dame 34-28.
Junior guard Jevon Carter led West Virginia with 24 points and four three-pointers. Junior guard Daxter Miles Jr. was behind Carter with 18 points. Senior guard Tarik Phillip finished with 12 points and sophomore forward Esa Ahmad and junior forward Elijah Macon each had 11.
The Mountaineers jumped out to a 10-0 lead with baskets from Ahmad and Macon and three’s from Carter and Miles. West Virginia’s defense rattled Notre Dame early as the Fighting Irish missed their first five shots from the field.
West Virginia would then go scoreless for nearly three minutes until five straight points from Carter gave the Mountaineers a 15-4 advantage with 12:49 remaining in the first half.
Notre Dame would then go on a 7-0 run to come within four points of West Virginia, but the Mountaineers’ relentless defense and press answered back by forcing turnovers as West Virginia extended its lead to 28-18 at the 7:14 mark.
The Fighting Irish would then fight back, cutting West Virginia’s lead to just three points, but the Mountaineers would answer back yet again, going on a 6-0 run to extend their lead to nine points with 1:34 remaining in the half.
Notre Dame, one of the best free throw shooting teams in the country, scored six of its final eight first half points at the free throw line as the Mountaineers took a 42-35 lead into the locker room at Halftime.
West Virginia finished the first half shooting 46-percent from the field and outscored Notre Dame in the paint 18-6.
The Mountaineers also won the first half turnover battle, forcing 10 Notre Dame turnovers and committing only four.
Notre Dame cut its deficit to four points with two baskets from Steve Vasturia to open the second half, but West Virginia would score five straight points, including a jumper by Carter and then a tenacious slam dunk by Ahmad that was set up by a Notre Dame turnover on the inbound pass.
West Virginia continued to answer each punch by Notre Dame and led the Fighting Irish 57-47 at the 11:25 mark.
The Mountaineers would score its next six points off free throws and went nearly seven minutes without a field goal.
Ahmad ended West Virginia's field goal drought with a three-pointer to put the Mountaineers up 66-56 with 5:43 remaining.
West Virginia would continue its dominance in the final five minutes of the game, holding off another rally by the Fighting Irish and connecting on free throws.
A slam by Miles was the exclamation point, sealing the double-digit win for West Virginia.
The Mountaineers will face the winner of the Gonzaga/Northwestern matchup in the Sweet Sixteen next Thursday in San Jose.