BUFFALO–Jevon Carter poured in 24 points as fourth-seeded West Virginia University ousts fifth-seeded Notre Dame 83-71 to advance to the Sweet 16 on Saturday afternoon at KeyBank Center.
Daxter Miles Jr. scored 18 points. Tarik Phillip added 12 points. Esa Ahmad and Elijah Macon both had 11.
Bonzie Colson tallied 28 points and eight rebounds for the Fighting Irish (26-10). Steve Vasturia added 11 points.
The Mountaineers’ defense held Matt Farrell to eight points.
WVU’s smothering pressure was too much for Notre Dame. The Irish looked frantic from the start, allowing the Mountaineers (28-8) to jump out to a 10-0 lead.
On the season Notre Dame turned the ball over 9.3 times per game but WVU forced the Irish into 14 turnovers in the second round showdown.
“Well, we just wanted to wear them down,” Mountaineers head coach Bob Huggins said. “We wanted to make them work really hard at advancing the ball. They shoot the ball so well, it’s — you know, if you trap cthem and you don’t do a good job or you don’t make the right rotation, they’re going to make shots. And so we were a little bit concerned about that. I didn’t want to turn them loose. I thought against Bucknell we did a horrible job of stopping the ball, and so they constantly were attacking the rim and I didn’t want Notre Dame to attack the rim. I wanted them, quite frankly, to shoot threes, rather than turn them loose in the pressure.”
Trailing 68-58, Notre Dame made a last-ditch effort to overtake WVU. Colson hit a 3 to cut the deficit to seven but Macon’s tipin pushed the Mountaineers’ lead back out to 70-61 with 3:58 remaining.
Matt Ryan hit a trey from the right corner made it a 72-66 contest with 3:07 to play.
However, Carter responded with a 3-pointer from the left wing. A free throw from Nathan Adrian and Macon’s dunk gave WVU a 78-66 lead with 1:31 left.
A pair of free throws from Ryan closed the gap to eight but Miles’ dunk and Carter’s free throws pushed the lead back to 12.
“I give our guys credit,” Irish head coach Mike Brey said. “We kept fighting, but eventually that really is — that does a lot of psychological damage, and we hadn’t been in one (a hole) in a while.We hadn’t been in one of those where we were digging out of a hole and trying to come back.”
The Mountaineers never trailed in the game.
“You just got to stay locked in the whole 40 minutes,” Phillip said.
WVU outrebounded the Irish 34-28 and had a 26-16 advantage in the paint.
With their 83 points, the Mountaineers set a new school record for points in a season with 2,956. Previously, the record stood at 2,884 from the 1959 season.
WVU shot 50 percent from the field, 57.1 from beyond the arc and made 21-of-26 from the charity stripe.
Notre Dame shot 40.7 percent from the field, 35.7 from 3-point range and made 17-of-17 from the line.
The Mountaineers will face the winner of the Gonzaga/ Northwestern game next Thursday in San Jose, Ca in the west region semifinal.
Photo credit: Dale Sparks-All-Pro Photography