DAYTON – DAYTON, Ohio – Notre Dame’s NCAA tournament struggles continued Friday night.
The No. 7 seeded Irish fell in the first game of the tournament for a second year in a row with their second-round 76-58 loss to No. 10 seed Iowa State in University of Dayton Arena.
“Everybody is disappointed,” Irish guard Jerian Grant said. “We felt like this was the year we could get it done. We had everybody back from last year, and we had a lot of experience.
“It was just disappointing.”
Notre Dame (25-10) hasn’t won a tournament game since defeating Akron 69-56 in 2011. This was the third straight year a No. 10 seed eliminated the Irish, who fell to Florida State two years ago and Xavier last year.
The Irish, who were playing in their fourth straight tournament, haven’t advanced past of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament since reaching the Sweet 16 in 2003, when they was eliminated by Arizona 88-71.
Notre Dame will move to a new league next season as it leaves the Big East for the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coach Mike Brey said the change to the ACC will bring a new challenge for the Irish to continue to make the NCAA tournament.
“I think the first thing you have to think of is not the NCAA tournament next year, it is who are we going to be in this new league and can we earn a bid again out of the ACC,” said Brey, who has nine NCAA appearances in 13 seasons at Notre Dame but is 6-9 in the tournament.
“Our history of our program has not been good in this thing. I’m aware of that. We strive to do better at it, and I still feel we have some pretty good momentum with good players coming back and good, young players.”
Iowa State (23-11) will play No. 2 seed Ohio State (27-7) on Sunday with the winner from that game advancing to the Sweet 16 in the West Regional, which will go through Arlington, Texas. The Buckeyes advanced to the third round with a 95-70 win over Iona (20-14) on Friday.
Jack Cooley, playing in his final game, and Tom Knight led Notre Dame with 14 points each.
Goerges Niang scored 19 for Iowa State, which held its own inside against Notre Dame scoring 32 points in the paint to the Irish’s 34. The Irish had a 35-27 rebounding advantage
Melvin Ejim added 17 for the Cyclones, who went 9 of 21 on three-pointers. Iowa State leads the country in three-pointers.
“We were really concerned about the three-point shot, and they really drove it to the hoop really well in the first half to open up the three-point shot,” Atkins said. “We were so aware of the three-pointer, it kind of backfired on us.”
Notre Dame and Iowa State traded the lead twice in the opening 9 minutes Friday with the Irish getting the upper hand after a Garrick Sherman layup gave them an 18-14 lead with 11:19 to play in the first half.
The Cyclones responded with an 11-1 run that gave them a 25-19 lead after Ejim’s dunk with 4:38 to play in the half.
During Iowa State’s run, Notre Dame struggled with turnovers committing eight of its 14 first-half turnovers during the 6 1/2 -minute span. The Irish came into the game tied for 24th in fewest turnovers with just 11.1 per game.
“That’s just not how we played in the regular season, and to turn it over 14 times, that’s just gong to hurt you,” Cooley said. “We were in at the beginning. We were playing really well. At the 14-minute mark something happened.”
Iowa State took a 35-23 lead into halftime and pushed its lead to 41-25 by scoring six points in the paint in the opening 2 minutes of the second half. Notre Dame tried to claw back with a 6-0 run that cut its deficit to 41-31 with 16:45 to play.
The Cyclones responded with a 10-2 run, getting 7 points from Niang in the stretch, to go ahead 51-33 with 13:18 to play.
Notre Dame’s deficit ballooned to 57-37 with 11:24 to play, and the Irish never got closer than 18 points the rest of the way.
“I thought early on with our defense being able to get some run-outs after causing some turnovers, it was definitely key, and that set the tempo in our favor pretty much for the night,” Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I thought that was the key to the game.”