NCAA In Brooklyn: Villanova, Notre Dame Advance To Sweet 16

(Villanova’s Ryan Arcidiacono looking to get the ball to Kris Jenkins – @NovaMBB)

The NCAA Tournament’s Second Round was held at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday afternoon, and Villanova and Notre Dame are moving on to the Sweet 16.

#2 Villanova 87, #7 Iowa 68 

Villanova was in complete control of this one from the beginning, and closed the first half on a 30-12 run to take a commanding 54-29 lead into the half.

The Wildcats maintained a 25-point lead for most of the second half, and the closest Iowa got was 16 points, 82-66 with 1:44 left, when the game was well in doubt.

Villanova will take on #3 Miami in the Sweet 16 of the South regional in Louisville.

Villanova was led by josh Hart, who had 19 points on 7-11 shooting, 1-4 on threes, with four rebounds and two assists. Ryan Arcidiacono had 16 points (5-8 shooting, 2-3 threes) and four assists. Kris Jenkins had 15 points on 6-9 from the field, 3-5 on threes, with six assists. Jalen Brunson had 12 points (5-10 FG, 2-3 threes), with four assists and three rebounds.

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said of the game, “We’re thrilled. We’re thrilled that we came out and played a first half like that. When I shook hands with Fran, I just said, hey, I’m sorry. We haven’t played a first half like that in a long time. We played a game against Xavier at home that we played like that, and we’ve been on the other side of this. When you just have a team that comes out and makes shots, makes every play defensively, it’s tough to get back in it.

“I just thought the first half was the key to the game. We were just hitting on all cylinders. Great leadership by Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. I’m thrilled for that senior class that they get to play in a Sweet 16,” said Wright.

Arcidiacono said of finally reaching the Sweet 16 and possibly feeling some relief, “Yeah, for sure. It was definitely a big time sigh of relief. I was ecstatic that we won our game against Iowa because we know how good of a team they are. But I’m just happy for our senior class to be able to get to experience it, and I know I was ecstatic.”

Arcidiacono said of his relationship with Wright and all they have been through during their four years together, “It’s a great relationship. Ever since day one, I think we’ve had trust in each other, and he trusted me as a freshman and throughout my years. But I think it’s just — I try to think of myself as him on the floor because he tells me, if he was to play and when he played, that’s how he wanted a player to play. So I just take pride in wearing this jersey at Villanova, and just my relationship with Coach is very special. We’re kind of from the same area in Pennsylvania. It’s just — it’s a great one.”

Wright said of this year, full of upsets, being a reminder of how tough it is to reach the Sweet 16, “Definitely. When you don’t get there a number of times, nobody — no one wants to hear that from the team that doesn’t get there. And I get that. But that’s really what we — when everyone was asking us, are you worried about your program? You just know how hard it is. You look at Michigan State, that team is a great team. It only takes one game.

“If you really follow the tournament, you see it happens a lot. So we were not concerned at all about the tournament. We wanted it badly for this senior class. They’re just great guys. I really didn’t want them to go down as the winningest class in Villanova history but they never got past the first weekend. That class. For everyone else, we were fine,” said Wright.

#6 Notre Dame 76 #14 Stephen F. Austin 75

#14 Stephen F. Austin came extremely close to notching their secod upset of the weekend, as they took #6 Notre Dame to the wire on Sunday after they dispatched #3 West Virginia in the East Regional.

This game was extremely tight throughout, as Notre Dame took a 42-41 edge into halftime.

Notre Dame opened up a 62-55 edge on a V.J. Beachem jumper at the 9:18 mark of the second half.

SFA put together an 11-2 run after it to take a 66-64 lead on Thomas Walkup free throws at the 6:46 mark.

Notre Dame re-took the lead on a Demetrius Jackson layup that made it 70-68 with 4:27 left.

SFA would notquit, and they went on a 7-0 run, capped by Walkup free throws that made it 75-70 with 2:05 left.

That was the last point they would score, and Notre Dame got a layup and a couple of free throws from Jackson to pull to within 75-74 with 47 seconds up, and after a Walkup miss, Notre Dame had 20 seconds to win the game.

Notre Dame did not take a timeout and they elected to play it out. Jackson missed a layup, and Rex Pflueger got the rebound and out it back in for the game-winner to make it 76-75 Notre Dame with 1.5 seconds left.


Notre Dame rushed the court after the buzzer sounded. Photo by Jason Schott.
Notre Dame rushed the court after the buzzer sounded. Photo by Jason Schott.

Notre Dame was led by Demetrius Jackson, who had 18 points on 6-8 FG, 2-3 on threes, three rebounds, and two assists. Zach Auguste had 16 points on a superb 8-9 from the field, and 15 rebounds for a double-double. V.J. Beachem had 15 points (6-13 FG, 2-8 threes), seven rebounds, and an assist.

SFA was led by Thomas Walkup, who had 21 points on 7-13 from the field, five rebounds and five assists. Demetrious Floyd had 16 points on 6-13 from the field, 4-9 on threes, two rebounds, and an assist. TJ Holyfield had 15 points on 6-9 shooting, 1-3 on threes, five rebounds, and an assist.

Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Brey said of the win, “Are you kidding me? Are you freakin’ kidding me? That was unbelievable. God, that was fun. Certainly, I’m very proud of our group because it didn’t look very good for us.

“But I think both nights here, Friday and Sunday, we showed some great character to kind of believe we could finish it, and we did.

“So Stephen F. Austin is fabulous, and they’re so well coached. They’re just a heck of a team. We beat a really good team today,” said Brey.

Pflueger was asked it he ever thought that his first bucket of the game would send them to the Sweet 16, “I didn’t expect that to be honest. I just crashed the board. I thought Zach was going to make that last layup, but Coach always emphasizes going to the board hard, especially in situations like that, and it just turned out for the best for us.”

Pflueger said of ever having that sort of dream that most kids have of making the shot in the big game, “Yeah, I’ve definitely had that dream, but I didn’t expect it to be a tip in. I actually had a similar experience where I missed it in my high school career, and I always wish I got that back. So now that this has happened, it’s made up for it.”

On the feeling of tipping in the game-winning basket in an NCAA game, Pflueger said, “Can’t really explain it because it still hasn’t hit me. It will probably hit me tomorrow sometime. But it’s been great. It wasn’t just one play that won us the game. I think it was an overall effort, rebounding, hustling, and it was just, like I said, overall impact of my whole team.”

Brey said of having a player like Rex, who comes out of a program like he did and, how much that factors into him being in the right place at the right time, “That’s what we love about him, coming from the Mater Dei Program, Gary McKnight. I can relate because I played for a similar guy in the DeMatha program. A great high school program. Well coached program, kids who believe they’re going to win. That’s what got us over the hump and decided, let’s get this guy. He has, since we got him in the lineup, and it started in Cameron, with how he played in Cameron to help us get that win — guarding, doing tough stuff, his athletic ability, he bounces around. I mean, he does stuff like that in practice all the time. So it’s not kind of out of left field.”

Brey said of the Notre Dame fans in Brooklyn, “Oh, our fans were fabulous here, and I can’t believe any site had better energy than this site. I watched games. There was great juice in this building. But I knew, when I saw us flash up in Brooklyn, I was excited because I knew our people would be out, and they helped us. They certainly helped us believe when we were down five with whatever it was left.”

Notre Dame will face Xavier or Wisconsin the Sweet 16 in Philadelphia Friday night.

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