Monday, March 21, 2011
Rapid Reaction: FSU 71, Notre Dame 57
By Eamonn Brennan
CHICAGO -- Notre Dame waited too long to find its shot, and by the time its fans -- who packed the United Center in hopes of watching Notre Dame advance to its first Sweet 16 since 2003 -- had something to cheer about in the second half, it was too late.
It was just another night in this topsy-turvy Chicago pod. A few hours earlier, No. 11 seed VCU completed a dominating win over No. 3 seed Purdue.
Notre Dame never got its offense going, and though Ben Hansbrough & Co. did creep back into the game in the second half, the Irish could never get within striking distance.
Turning point: This was all FSU almost from the opening tip. Florida State extended its lead to as much as 23 in the second half, but the Irish didn't go away easily. With 8:37 left, Hansbrough sank a 3-pointer, and as FSU guard Michael Snaer got up off the court, he appeared to yell at the nearest official. Snaer was promptly assessed a technical foul. Snaer protested; he said he was yelling at his own bench about, well, something. The ref didn't buy it. Tim Abromaitis sank the ensuing free throws, and all of a sudden Notre Dame had closed the lead to 12, its thousands of fans were on their feet, and it looked like the Irish had one last charge in them.
That sensation didn't last long. On the next possession, Florida State guard Derwin Kitchen drove to the rim and drew a foul. Kitchen sank both free throws, expanding the lead to 14, and it wasn't long until the game was fully out of reach.
Key player: Florida State forward Bernard James was emblematic of the challenges the Seminoles posed for Notre Dame. The Irish are a perimeter-oriented team, one that is more at home in a finesse game played around the margins. James, on the other hand, is a bruising 6-foot-10 forward with reach for days. Every time ND needed a stop, the Seminoles found James in the post. He almost always converted (6-for-8 from the field, 14 points, 10 rebounds).
Key stat: Florida State's defense has been great all season. Its offense? Not so much. But if you didn't know better, you'd think the Seminoles -- who scored around 1.4 points per possession Sunday -- were one of the best offensive teams in the country. Notre Dame was always going to struggle with FSU's defense. Most teams do. But once FSU started scoring at that rate, it was clear ND had no chance.
Miscellaneous: Notre Dame's loss means only two -- yes, two -- of the Big East's 11 NCAA teams will advance to the second weekend of the tournament. Yikes.
What's next: ND ends another season with a first-weekend tournament disappointment. The Irish cap this season, one of the best in recent program history, at 27-7 overall. Meanwhile, Florida State advances to San Antonio, where it will meet Virginia Commonwealth next weekend. That should be a fun one.