LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) — Notre Dame defended with tenacity, got shots to fall from all angles, played like a Final Four-caliber team.
Now the Irish get a chance to face another team with Final Four aspirations: No. 6 Wichita State in a top-of-the-marquee Maui Invitational title game.
Flowing on offense and gritty on defense, Notre Dame dominated LSU with a super all-around game, routing the Tigers 92-53 on Tuesday night to reach the Maui Invitational title game.
“I wish I could bottle that for the rest of the season,” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I thought we really played well on both ends of the floor. Our experience showed.”
The Irish (5-0) expectedly breezed past Chaminade in their opener and looked as they were playing against another Division II in manhandling LSU.
Notre Dame shut down the high-scoring Tigers, challenging nearly every shot at the rim, the 3-point arc and everything in between. They were smoothly efficient offensively, making extra passes, finding the open man, knocking down shots.
T.J. Gibbs scored 26 points and Matt Farrell added 17 and seven assists while running the Irish show from the point. Preseason All-America Bonzie Wells played his usual never-a-wasted-motion game, finishing with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Notre Dame shot 52 percent from the field and made 15 of 32 from 3-point range.
Now it’s on to the Shockers and a chance to become Maui champions.
“It would mean a lot, really be a momentum push for us into the rest of the season, into ACC play,” said Gibbs, who hit 6 of 10 from 3-point range.
LSU (3-1) lost starting guard Brandon Sampson to an ankle injury in the game’s opening minute and struggled without one of its top defensive players.
The Tigers had trouble slowing the Irish defensively and labored from the perimeter on offense, hitting 6 of 23 shots from the 3-point arc while shooting 36 percent overall. Duop Reath led LSU with 17 points.
“It was deflating, but we have other guys who have to step up,” LSU coach Will Wade said. “We have guys who have wanted opportunities and we’ve got to step up.”
LSU beat Michigan 77-75 in its Maui opener behind the stellar play of Tremont Waters. The talented freshman point guard had 21 points and set up the go-ahead basket with a spectacular over-the-shoulder, no-look assist from his knees.
Notre Dame had a much easier road to the semifinals, dominating Chaminade from the start of an 83-56 rout.
The Tigers had a tough break on their first possession of the semifinals, when Sampson came down on a foot and rolled his left ankle. He had to be helped off the court, leaving LSU without arguably its best defensive player.
The Irish took advantage, scoring at the rim and the 3-point arc during a 15-2 run that put them up 25-10. Farrell had the highlight-reel play of the spurt, bouncing a pass between the long legs of 6-foot-11 Reath to set up Martinas Geben for a dunk.
Notre Dame didn’t let up, hitting seven 3-pointers, 15 of 31 shots overall and holding the Tigers to 1-for-8 shooting from the arc for a 40-24 halftime lead.
The Irish continued to stretch the lead in the second half, using a 6-0 burst midway through to go up 61-35.
“Notre Dame is a phenomenal-caliber team,” Wade said. “They shoot it, they’re poised, they play with unbelievable pace. It would have taken a very good effort for us to win tonight, with or without Sampson.”
Notre Dame turned its first game against a power program into a laugher with a strong effort on both ends of the court.
LSU was hurt by the loss of Sampson, but it may not have mattered the way the Irish played.
Waters had a superb game against Michigan, but found the going a bit tougher against Notre Dame’s length and athleticism. The freshman point guard finished with eight points on 2-of-7 shooting with three assists and three turnovers.
The Irish won the turnover battle decisively, forcing the Tigers into 17 while turning it over six times themselves. Notre Dame converted LSU’s turnovers in 19 points to just four for the Tigers.
Notre Dame plays No. 6 Wichita State in Wednesday’s championship game.
LSU gets Marquette in the third-place game on Wednesday.
Copyright 2017 The Associated Press.