By: Jake Fischer
PITTSBURGH- As first round upsets have become ever more frequent over the last few years, the term “survive and advance” has become as synonymous with the NCAA Tournament as “March Madness.”
Notre Dame needed all 40 minutes to survive Northeastern and advance to the third round of this year’s Big Dance on Thursday, escaping the Huskies with a 69-65 victory.
After Northeastern’s thrilling Colonial Athletic Association championship and the fun media tour over the past week and a half, the Huskies’ season came down to just one play.
Once trailing by four with 1:22 remaining, Zach Stahl corralled an improbable steal as Notre Dame sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson fumbled a three-quarter-court football pass that would have easily beaten Northeastern’s press for a dagger bucket.
Bill Coen had no timeouts left as David Walker brought the ball over the timeline. He couldn’t draw up a play and he couldn’t bring Scott Eatherton off the bench, who was sitting with four fouls in part of a defense-offense rotation.
Notre Dame sniffed out the Huskies’ play and bottled up Walker as he curled off a top-of-the-key screen. Zach Stahl slipped the subsequent screen and would have had a wide-open 15-foot jumper down the right baseline. Quincy Ford couldn’t see him, though. And just as the momentum swung in Northeastern’s favor with a steal, the Huskies gave it right back to Notre Dame with a turnover of their own.
It was a crushing end to a terrific game and even better season.
“I thought our team competed buzzer to buzzer,” Coen said. “They left it out on the floor and I just couldn’t be proud of this group of young men. They never stopped believing in themselves.”
The loss marks the end of Scott Eatherton’s decorated career. Reggie Spencer’s time in a Husky uniform is now over as well. But with a core of Walker, Ford and T.J. Williams returning with a supporting cast of Stahl, Devon Begley and Caleb Donnelly and a strong recruiting class, the future is still bright on St. Butolph Street.
“We’re excited for the future,” Coen said. “I’m confident the group coming back will but on this and continue to add to a great tradition that is Northeastern basketball.”