Fighting Irish rally by Badgers

Published 11:36 am Sunday, March 27, 2016

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Mike Brey can skip a stint on the disabled list.

He has at least one more Notre Dame game to coach.

Brey was so annoyed over a perceived missed call in the second half, he leaped in protest — and failed to stick the landing. Brey pulled a calf muscle in his right leg and — moments after putting Wisconsin’s season on ice — needed a cold wrap as he hobbled toward the locker room.

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“No surgery needed. But I’m a little sore,” Brey said, smiling. “I told the guys I’m the first one taped on Sunday.”

Yes, the Fighting Irish are back in the regional final — with a limping coach and some unfinished business.

Demetrius Jackson stripped the ball and scored the go-ahead layup with 14.7 seconds left and Notre Dame advanced to the brink of its first Final Four in 38 years with a 61-56 win over Wisconsin on Friday night in the East Region semifinal of the NCAA Tournament.

Jackson sealed the win with a second steal — credit this win to the Pluck of the Irish — and sank two free throws to send the Irish (24-11) into a regional final for the second straight season.

Notre Dame lost to Kentucky a year ago. This year, the Irish will get a shot at top-seeded North Carolina.

“Maybe there’s some destiny involved in this thing,” Brey said.

Or maybe a higher power?

“The Irish don’t lose on Good Friday or Easter Sunday,” Brey told his team in the locker room. “Can I get an Amen!”

Ethan Happ led the Badgers (22-13) with 14 points and 12 boards. Wisconsin star Nigel Hayes was a non-factor, scoring 11 points on just 4 of 12 shooting.

V.J. Beachem scored 19 points, Zach Auguste had 13 points and 12 rebounds and Jackson scored 16 points and the Irish have their first Final Four since 1978 in sight.

With Hayes slumping, Wisconsin let the Irish hang around and make a run even with the kind of gory shooting numbers that would have had them blown out against a Villanova or Kansas.

Yet the Irish tied it at 34 on Jackson’s runner and Auguste had a monster block from behind on Hayes that sparked some life into a stagnant game. Hayes snapped the tie with a 3 the next time down and a snoozer suddenly felt like March Madness. Hayes had missed 20 straight 3-pointers.

Zak Showalter flew out of nowhere — the lane? the sky? — and slammed home a miss that put the Badgers up 39-38.

The Badgers needed more of the same — but were doomed by off-kilter 3-point shooting (6 of 20) and 17 turnovers.

“We never quite got to where we needed to get taking care of the ball all year,” coach Greg Gard said. “And part of it is our youth. Part of it is things we’ve still got to mature through and grow.”

Notre Dame and Wisconsin combined for so many misses in the first half, it was easy to think the 76ers were still in town. The Irish and Badgers combined to miss 13 straight shots over 4 minutes and nearly lulled the crowd to sleep.

Still, Wisconsin held a 23-19 lead at halftime and it was the lowest scoring first half of the season for the Fighting Irish.

But 10 points in the final 46 seconds pushed the Fighting Irish into the Elite Eight.

“Feels amazing to be going back,” Jackson said. “We just did a great job sticking with it. We did a great job giving ourselves a chance to win.”


Notre Dame: Jackson and Auguste shot a combined 22 of 30 in the first two tournament games, then went 3 of 16 in the first half. … New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was at the game. Christie is longtime friends with Notre Dame coach Mike Brey.


Notre Dame has six wins in the NCAA Tournament over the last two years. The Irish had never won more than five games (1978-79) over a two-year span.

Virginia 84, Iowa State 71

CHICAGO (AP) — Anthony Gill finished with a season-high 23 points, Mike Tobey came off the bench to score 18, and top-seeded Virginia beat Iowa State 84-71 in the Midwest Region semifinals on Friday night.

The Cavaliers (29-7) withstood a second-half push by the fourth-seeded Cyclones (23-12) after grabbing a big lead in the early going and advanced to their first regional final since 1995.

Virginia will face Syracuse or Gonzaga on Sunday. A win would send the Cavaliers to their first Final Four since 1984, when coach Tony Bennett was a teenager.

Georges Niang had another big game for Iowa State, finishing with 30 points after scoring 28 against both Iona and Arkansas-Little Rock in the first two rounds. But an up-and-down first season under coach Steve Prohm ended on a disappointing note.

Syracuse 63, Gonzaga 60

CHICAGO (AP) — Michael Gbinije made a go-ahead layup with 22 seconds left, sending Syracuse to a 63-60 victory over Gonzaga on Friday night and a spot in the Elite Eight.

Tyler Lydon sealed the win with a block on Josh Perkins’ runner in the final seconds. Lydon then grabbed the ball and made two foul shots before Domantas Sabonis’ desperate fling was well off at the buzzer.

Gbinije scored 20 points and Trevor Cooney had 15 as Syracuse (22-13) advanced to the regional final for the first time since 2013. The 10th-seeded Orange will face No. 1 Virginia on Sunday for a spot in the Final Four.

Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points for No. 11 Gonzaga (28-8), and Sabonis finished with 19 points and 17 rebounds. The rest of the Bulldogs accounted for just 18 points.

Gonzaga looked as if it was heading to the final eight for the second straight season before Syracuse switched to full-court pressure late in the second half. The Bulldogs held the Orange to 36.1 percent shooting, but committed 17 turnovers and Syracuse took advantage down the stretch.

North Carolina 101, Indiana 86

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Marcus Paige scored 21 points and North Carolina continued its offensive prowess, moving to the Elite Eight for the 20th time since 1975 with a 101-86 victory over Indiana on Friday night in the East Regional.

The top-seeded Tar Heels (31-6) will meet sixth-seeded Notre Dame on Sunday, determining one of two guaranteed Atlantic Coast Conference spots in the Final Four.

Brice Johnson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for the Tar Heels, who are in the regional final for the seventh time in coach Roy Williams’ 12 years and for the first time since 2012.

Yogi Ferrell had 25 points to lead Indiana (27-8).