LUCK OF THE IRISH: Notre Dame beats Rutgers in double OT
DAYTON, Ohio (WNDU) - The Fighting Irish men’s basketball team made their return to the NCAA tournament Wednesday night. On Thursday, they wake up winners after beating Rutgers in double overtime by a score of 89-87.
It wasn’t enough for Notre Dame to give college hoops fans the first overtime game in this year’s tournament… this one went to DOUBLE OT & stretched from Wednesday night into Thursday morning. & what better day for the Fighting Irish to secure their first tourney win in five years than Saint Patrick’s Day.
“That was an unbelievable college basketball game,” says Irish head coach Mike Brey. “They (Rutgers) are really good & tough & fearless. I’m really proud of our group because we just kept hanging in.”
What was a back-and-forth affair all night could’ve culminated in a Rutgers win at the end of regulation, but Cormac Ryan’s defense threw off the potential game-winning shot to send the game to OT.
Then at the end of overtime 1 — a clutch 3 pointer from Rutgers almost spelled disaster for the Irish. But Blake Wesley, playing on his 19th birthday, hit one of the biggest shots of the night to tie it back up and send things to a second extra period.
That’s where Notre Dame would eke out their victory -- getting what would be a game-winning layup by the game’s leading scorer Paul Atkinson Junior, who finished with 26.
“& you notice that Paul’s shot went in at 12:02 on Saint Patrick’s Day so maybe there was a little bit of karma there,” Brey half-joked after the win. “If there’s a better game in the NCAA tournament, I’ve got to see it.”
“I just wanted to battle for these guys,” said Atkinson, who scored the most points from either side. “They (my teammates) haven’t been here (the NCAA tournament), I haven’t been here in a long time, & it’s potentially my last year so I just wanted to battle. A lot of people don’t get this chance.”
Irish guard Cormac Ryan was in a bit more of playful mood following the victory.
“Look, I woke up this morning: I slept great, breakfast tasted good, I got the Wordle in 2 guesses. So sometimes you just got a little bit of luck of the Irish,” Ryan said.
“This is what it’s all about — March madness. Like coach said, one of the better games — maybe the best game I’ve ever been a part of, & to do it in this atmosphere on this stage is a blessing.”
After showing us what March Madness is all about, the Irish now advance to the round of 64 with a quick turnaround: they’ll play 6-seed Alabama all the way out in San Diego on Friday.
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