Irish Eyes Smiling in Greensboro

GREENSBORO, NC — Notre Dame put together a brilliant 26-3 run late in the second half of Saturday night’s ACC championship game against North Carolina — turning a nine-point deficit into a decisive 80-66 advantage with just under three minutes to play — as Mike Brey’s Fighting Irish claimed its first-ever men’s basketball conference tournament championship in school history.

“I am a little bit in awe of what my team did tonight, and really the whole weekend here,” said Brey moments after the game. “To be down nine and come out of that timeout and get maybe seven, eight, nine stops in a row, when it looked like we couldn’t guard them.  Then put that together with beautiful basketball, which we’ve played all year in ball movement, it was a lightning strike to watch it.”

Notre Dame’s 90-82 triumph over the Tar Heels — coming in front of a heavily pro-UNC crowd at the Greensboro Coliseum — completed an impressive three-game sweep for the Fighting Irish of Miami, Duke, and UNC.

[callout2]“To win the championship going through Duke and North Carolina on Tobacco Road I think is extremely powerful,” said Brey. “It’s really powerful for our program.  We’ve never won a conference tournament championship.  Of course, we weren’t in the conference, but 18 years, but to be part of the first one, I’m really proud.”[/callout2]

Notre Dame placed three players on the All-Tournament first-team, including Most Valuable Player Jerian Grant, who tallied 24 points Saturday.

Pat Connaughton scored 20 in Saturday’s finale, making four of five 3-pointer attempts, to earn his spot on the All-Tournament squad, while Steve Vasturia continued his clutch shooting with three 3-pointers and 14 total points.

Zach Auguste and Demetrius Jackson rounded out five Irish players in double figures in scoring with 16 and 11 points, respectively. Jackson hit a variety of key shots, while Auguste patrolled the paint and dominated the glass with a game-high 13 rebounds.

“When we get into the zone like that, there is really no stopping us,” said Grant about Notre Dame’s late surge. “Offensively we know we can score.  The way we play is really unselfish, but when we’re getting stops like that and running, we can score so quick, it’s almost like a blur.”

[callout2]“Duke and North Carolina are two premier programs, not only ACC but in the country,” added Vasturia. “So anytime you beat them, it’s big.  But we came in with a lot of confidence in this tournament, beating both of those teams during the regular season.  With the leaders we have and the way we’ve been playing all year, we came in here with a certain confidence and we’ve played with an edge just like the coaches have been talking about. So, yeah, we knew it was big to beat these guys, but I think we came in here with the confidence and ready to attack that opportunity.”[/callout2]

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