Mountaineers clinch Sweet 16 berth with win over Notre Dame

BUFFALO, NY – MARCH 18: Bonzie Colson #35 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish reacts after being defeated by the West Virginia Mountaineers 83-71 during the second round of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at KeyBank Center on March 18, 2017 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Jevon Carter scored 24 points, and West Virginia is headed to the Sweet 16 for the third time since 2010 following a 83-71 win over Notre Dame.

Tarik Phillip added 12 points and Esa Ahmad had nine rebounds for the Mountaineers (28-8), the West region’s fourth-seeded team.

Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson hit 10 of 15 shots, scored 27 points and had eight rebounds. The fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-10) were stopped from making their third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance after entering the tournament as the only school to reach each of the past two Elite Eight rounds.

Carter ended the game by bouncing the ball untouched atop the Fighting Irish key and then slamming it emphatically to the court as the final buzzer sounded, ending a matchup of former Big East rivals.

After trailing 68-58 with just under 5 minutes left, the Fighting Irish made one last run, cutting the lead to 72-66 on Matt Ryan’s 3-pointer from the right corner with 3:06 remaining.

Carter then countered on West Virginia’s next possession by hitting a fall-away 3-pointer from the left wing.

It’s West Virginia’s seventh berth in the round of 16, the fourth since coach Bob Huggins took over in 2007 and first since 2015. The Mountaineers’ run also makes up for what happened a year ago, when they were upset by 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin in the first round.

The Mountaineers never trailed in a game their smothering press and size advantage proved too much for the Fighting Irish to counter. West Virginia forced 14 turnovers and had a 34-28 edge in rebounds.

Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey had no choice but to gamble by keeping Colson in after the star forward picked up his fourth foul with 9:47 left and with West Virginia up 59-47 after Miles hit both free throws.

Colson delivered on Brey’s trust by taking over on offense. He scored 10 of Notre Dame’s next 14 points over a 5-minute span.

Notre Dame forward V.J. Beachem struggled a year after combining for 70 points in the Fighting Irish’s run to the Elite Eight. Against West Virginia, he finished 2 of 14— including 1 of 9 in 3-point attempts — and scored 9 points. In the first-round against Princeton, Beachem went 1 of 9 and scored 6 points.

 

Notre Dame had turned the ball over 10 times in trailing 42-35 at the half. Notre Dame had not committed double-digit turnovers in its previous nine games since a 13-turnover outing in an 84-72 win over Florida State on Feb. 11. The Mountaineers entered the game leading the nation in averaging 20.4 turnovers.