The ACC Tournament 3rd-seeded Notre Dame Fighting Irish held off the Florida State Seminoles to win 77 to 73, advancing to the ACC Championship game on Saturday night. BONZIE COLSON led the way for Notre Dame with 18 points and 6 rebounds, while Matt Farrell added 15 points and 6 assists and sophomore Matt Ryan gave ND 11 points off the bench, shooting 3-of-4 from 3.
The big story for ND was Steve “White Steve” Vasturia’s resurgence as a shooter, as he made 4 of his 5 shots from long range and shot 7-of-13 overall. Vasturia has been playing well of late in every aspect of his game except his jumper, so it was incredibly encouraging for Irish fans to see him rain 3-balls from the outside with success once again.
Florida State was led by Dwayne Bacon, who scored 18 points and had 9 rebounds. Braian Angola-Rodas added 17 for the Seminoles, including a stretch where he scored 16 of the team’s last 17 points.
The first half couldn’t have gone better for the Irish, as ND took a 17-16 lead on a COLSON jumper and didn’t look back, outscoring the Seminoles 25-10 to bring a 42-26 lead into the half. The Irish caught fire from 3-point range, shooting 8-of-15 in the half behind 2 threes each from Farrell, Vasturia and Ryan. Ryan is a guy who’s been unable to get into a shooting rhythm all year, but the sharpshooter finally found his stride, hitting two from long range in the first half, and also scoring on a very surprising dribble drive on the baseline.
Florida State, on the other hand, shot very poorly in the first half, as Notre Dame’s defensive effort from the Virginia game carried over to Friday night. The Seminoles shot 40.7 percent from the field and 0-of-7 from behind the 3-point arc. Florida State was able to out-rebound the Irish 19-12 in the half as well, and ND had 0 offensive rebounds. That’s a very misleading stat, though, because ND shot a scorching hot 51.6 percent from the field and 53.3 percent from deep.
In the early going in the second half, Notre Dame extended its lead to 18 by going up 49-31, and led 51-35 at the under-16 timeout. From there, the lead stayed steady at about 14. The Seminoles started to make some noise during a stretch where Vasturia, Farrell, and Beachem were getting some rest, and ND led just 57-46 at the under-12.
FSU whittled the deficit down to 8 with about 9 minutes to go, and from there the two teams began trading 3-pointers, putting on an exceptional shooting display for 4 or 5 possessions straight. ND then extended their lead to about 11, and from there the two teams went back and forth trading baskets. The last 2 minutes got very interesting, though, when Notre Dame began to take and miss bad shots, turn the ball over a couple times, and give up a handful of easy buckets to allow FSU back into the game.
The Seminoles made it 72-66 with a minute and a half to play, but the Irish finally scored on a COLSON free throw after going nearly 4 minutes without scoring a single point.
Missed free throws down the stretch from COLSON, Farrell, and Pflueger kept the Seminoles in it until the end. However, FSU couldn’t get their shots to fall and BONZIE finally righted the ship and sunk 2 free throws to make it 75-68. The Irish closed out the final 18 seconds without incident, winning 77 to 73 after a last-second three fell through the net for Florida State.
Notre Dame shot 47.5 percent from the field, 48.1 percent from 3 (13-of-27), and 61.5 percent from the free throw line. The Seminoles, meanwhile, shot 50.9 percent overall, but were only 33.3 percent from long range.
The Irish advance to the ACC Championship on Saturday evening, where they will face the Duke Blue Devils for a chance at their second conference championship in 3 seasons.