In was a close one reminiscent of classic ND games of yore, the Notre Dame Fighting Alumni came back to beat the Midwest Dream Squad 79-77 in the Round of 16 play-in game of The Basketball Tournament. After the Dream Squad guard Mike DiNunno knocked down both halves of a one-and-one to tie the game with five seconds left, Tim Abromaitis inbounded to Ben Hansborough with the game one the line. Psycho B took the ball to midcourt, and threw a bullet pass to a cutting Eric Atkins along the baseline. Atkins still a lot to do at the rim, and he managed to beat the clock and a shot blocker to knock down the layup. Two tenths of a second remained for the Dream Squad, but ND survived when they Ty Nash knocked away the long inbounds pass. With the win, the Fighting Alums march on to face the D-League Mad Ants Alumni team in the Round of 16.
The game went back and fourth all night long, with neither team leading by more than 10. Mike DiNunno led all scorers with 25, and Irish Alums had no answer for the former Eastern Kentucky guard. DiNunno hit threes (5/8 3pt) when defenders gave him space, and drove past them for runners and floaters when he was tightly guarded. Like this season's ND team, the Fighting Alums found a way get stops when they needed to down the stretch. With four minutes to go, the Fighting Alums found themselves down five points. The alums converted a layup, then got a quick steal and layup to cut the lead to one. Immediately after wards, DiNunno hit a long three to stretch the lead back to four. Notre Dame was able to tie the game with a big three pointer by Hansborough with 90 seconds left. After more heroics from DiNunno, the Irish were down one with 45 seconds to go. With the Dream Squad looking to extend the lead, Hansborough made a huge steal before passing to Atkins for an and-1.
After knocking down the freebie, the one point deficient became a two point lead. With a chance to get a stop to win the game, Tory Jackson tried a reach around steal on DiNunno. He was whistled for a reach-in allowing the Dream Squad star to tie the game setting up ND's last second victory. While he picked up the assist to win the game, Hansborough also led the Fighting Alums with 23 points. Ben also was tops on the team with six assists. Every member of the squad got at least a few minutes of run except Luke Harangody who joined the team after playing in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.
Next Round's Opponent
The next opponent for the ND squad is the Ants Alumni. The Ants are a collection of players that won the 2013/14 NBA D-League with Fort Wayne. College hoops fans will recognize a few members of the second seeded Ants like Brian Butch (Wisconsin), Stephen Graham (Oklahoma State), and David Teague (Purdue). While the Dream Squad was primarily perimeter oriented, ND bigs will have their hands full with the 6' 11" Butch and 6' 10" Tommy Smith (Arizona State). The Ants haven't really been tested in the tournament so far winning both of their previous games by double digits, but the Fighting Alumni should give them a much stiffer challenge tomorrow. The game will take place at 7:30 and will be on WatchESPN. Tickets are available for anyone in the Chicago area that wishes to attend.
- While I'm a younger fan than a lot of folks here, it's a blast watching different guys from the Brey era all play together in this event. After a three and a half month break from college basketball, a game like this really got the blood pumping.
- The Irish defense struggled to contain DiNunno on the pick-and-roll, especially when Joel Box (Qunicy University) was the screener. ND moved to switching more ball screens which helped slow down the Dream Squad, but they'll have to defend better if they're going to repeat as tournament champions.
- ND Basketball play-by-play announcer Jack Nolan called the game for ESPNU, and Mike Brey served as the color commentator. Jerian Grant was also at the game, and was interviewed at halftime. It was nice for ESPN to give ND hoops an extended informercial for the program. Scott Martin was also in the stands watching the game.
- Speaking of Brey, he seemed to be really buttering up the officials while he was behind the mic. Hopefully it buys ND a call or two next season.
- Tory Jackson provided a huge spark off the bench with his defense. I thought ND looked best at both ends when Jackson, Atkins (18 points, 7/8 FG), Hansborough, Abromaitis (12 points, 4/10 shooting), and Nash (17 points, 6/9 shooting) were on the floor together.
- Along with Jackson, Eric Atkins helped put some serious pressure on the Dream Squad guards as the two combined for 7 steals, most of which were in the second half.
- The Irish depth may have been the difference in this one as DiNunno and Box were visibly exhausted late in the game. Being able to play all ten guys without a serious drop in ability could help ND a lot the rest of the tournament.
- While we're only at the Round of 16, the dream final of the Fighting Alumni and Boeheim's Army is still on the table.