GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Notre Dame did just enough to avoid another early exit from the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament.
Steve Vasturia hit the go-ahead 3-pointer with 6:13 left and the 11th-ranked Fighting Irish overcame a blown 20-point lead to hold off Miami 70-63 in Thursday night’s quarterfinals.
Vasturia’s 3 helped the Fighting Irish (27-5) survive a disastrous collapse in which the Hurricanes (21-12) came all the way back to take a two-point lead with 6½ minutes left. He finished with a team-high 16 points on a bizarre night for third-seeded Notre Dame, which couldn’t miss in the first half then couldn’t shoot for most of the second against Miami’s zone.
“I’m really proud of our group because we really struggled against their zone,” coach Mike Brey said. “We couldn’t get much of a rhythm. … But this group all year has been really poised away from our building.”
The Irish earned their first tournament win after a first-day exit from last year’s debut season. They advance to the semifinals to face No. 2 Duke.
Brey praised his team’s defense, with Miami missing eight straight shots and going more than 6 minutes without a basket when the game hung in the balance.
“We just kept coming back to, ‘You know what? We’re not in a great rhythm offensively — we’re going to have to defend to win,'” Brey said.
Angel Rodriguez scored 15 points to lead sixth-seeded Miami, which came so close to the kind of win the Hurricanes needed in Greensboro to help improve whatever chance they had of earning an NCAA Tournament bid.
Trailing by 18 at halftime, Miami ran off a 19-2 spurt to get back in it. Then Sheldon McClellan’s two free throws pushed them to a 51-49 lead with 6:30 left, only to see Vasturia bury the 3 from the left corner off a feed from Jerian Grant to take the lead right back.
“(The Irish) get the credit,” Miami coach Jim Larranaga said. “My guys get the credit for not hanging their heads at halftime and coming out and battling and putting themselves in position to win the game. Disappointing to come up short.”
Miami: The Hurricanes went 1 for 10 from 3-point range before the break but hit four after halftime. … Miami made 14 of 16 free throws in the second half. … Tonye Jekiri had 11 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with 3:26 left.
Notre Dame: Pat Connaughton scored 14 points on 5 for 5 shooting in the first half, then didn’t score again. … Grant had 13 points and six assists. … The Irish had five players in double figures. … Vasturia’s 3 started a 12-3 run.
HOT THEN COLD
Behind Connaughton, Notre Dame shot 63 percent and made 8 of 13 3s in the first half to take its 43-25 lead at the break. But the Irish — who came in shooting 51 percent to rank second nationally — missed their first 10 shots of the second half and didn’t manage a basket for 12 minutes.
Vasturia, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, needed an IV earlier Thursday due to an illness. But he came up with two key plays late with his team holding just a three-point lead, scoring on a runout off an inbounds pass with 50.4 seconds left then stealing a pass from Davon Reed.
“I think we got a little impatient on the offensive end, we kind of turned the ball over and took some bad shots,” Vasturia said. “That cost us, but all year we’ve been doing a good job of taking punches and being poised, and at the end of the day we did a good job of that.”
Had Miami been able to hang on to its slim lead, it would’ve been the second-biggest halftime deficit overcome to win at the tournament, and the biggest since Maryland rallied from 19 down to beat North Carolina State in the 2004 semifinals.
Miami: Must wait to find out its postseason fate.
Notre Dame: Plays No. 2 Duke on Friday night in semifinals.
(© 2015 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.)