For those of us who are normal and have only one television in their living room, we often face the dilemma of deciding on which game we’re going to watch during the tournament’s first weekend. It’s a lot to take in, and if you decided to just settle on one primary game to set your television to, you wouldn’t have been disappointed if it was Princeton-Notre Dame.
In a thrilling midday battle that was close from start to finish, Notre Dame took down No. 12 seed Princeton by a score of 60-58. It was a low-scoring affair that featured all the hallmarks of entertaining basketball: missed free throws, little to no fast break points and beaucoup missed shots.
Early on, it was clear that these two teams matched up similarly, especially as Notre Dame seemed to be playing at Princeton’s tempo. Even as Notre Dame began to try and play quicker throughout the game, the Tigers were able to keep up offensively, never letting the Notre Dame lead stretch all that much.
In the second half, a great deal of this changed. Princeton began playing sloppier than they had in the first 20 minutes, turning the ball over nine times. The Fighting Irish did an excellent job of forcing errant passes from Princeton, a team that is accustomed to playing a slower brand of basketball than most teams in the field.
Fortunately for Princeton, Notre Dame didn’t shoot much better in the second half. Just as it seemed that the Fighting Irish were going to pull away and coast to a win, Notre Dame began to lose its head. The Fighting Irish couldn’t run any offensive sets, and their surefire free throw shooters began to miss. It was the opportunity that Princeton needed to sneak back into it.
The entire game culminated in an exciting finish. Down three with less than 20 seconds to go, Princeton was able to tip in a missed three to cut the lead to one. After Farrell (an 80% free throw shooter) missed another foul shot, the Tigers were unable to make a basket to win it. It was all over.
A large reason for the Tigers’ loss was their poor shooting from behind the arc. While they were able to make a few clutch corner threes in the first half, Princeton couldn’t hit long range shots with consistency.
On the afternoon, Princeton shot a regrettable 8-for-31 from three. However, the Tigers weren’t only bad when shooting from the perimeter. In the second half, they couldn’t seem to hit a jump shot (save for a four-point play from Devin Cannady). While they did a good job of hanging with the Fighting Irish when trying to find a man who’s under the basket - the product of a signature Princeton backdoor cut - they couldn’t do much else. It was an uncharacteristically poor shooting performance from a team that typically hits 45 percent of its shots from the field.
For the Tigers, the star was Spencer Weisz, who was 6-for-11 from the field, scoring 15 points. It wasn’t enough to get the job done, however, as Notre Dame’s duo of Matt Farrell and Bonzie Colson combined for 34 of the Irish’s points.
Notre Dame will go on to face the winner of No. 4 West Virginia and No. 13 Bucknell on Saturday.