Notre Dame 79, Vanderbilt 69
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—Torin Francis dominated inside, Colin Falls hit from outside and Chris Quinn did a little of both.
That combination, along with Shan Foster’s poor shooting, allowed Notre Dame to beat Vanderbilt 79-69 on Wednesday night in the National Invitation Tournament.
“I thought the game really came down to the fact Notre Dame shot the ball better than we did,” Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said. “I’m not sure from my perspective that it had anything to do with either defense.”
The Irish play the winner of Thursday night’s game between UTEP and Michigan in the next round.
Notre Dame (16-13), which led 38-35 at halftime, opened the second half with an 11-4 spurt, with Francis giving the Irish a 49-39 lead on a three-point play with 17:34 left. The Commodores (17-13) cut the lead to five points three times, but could get no closer as the Irish repeatedly ran down the shot clock. Notre Dame extended the lead to 10 points again when Quinn dribbled the clock down then drove in for the basket to make it 73-63 with 2:44 left.
Irish coach Mike Brey was pleased with his team’s offense and the fact Vanderbilt was just 2-of-16 from 3-point range in the second half.
“Because they use the 3-point line like we use the 3-point line and we really were very alert there so they couldn’t make a run back at us,” Brey said.
Francis had 23 points and 11 rebounds for the Irish. The 23 points was a point off his season high, set against IPFW in December, and two points off the career high he had against Arizona in the NCAA tournament in 2003.
“I think we had an advantage down low and my teammates were giving it to me,” Francis said.
Quinn and Falls added 15 points each. Falls hit his fourth 3-pointer with 18:41 left the second half to break the school record of 99 3-pointers made by Matt Carroll during the 2002-03 season. Falls was 4-of-8 from 3-point range and finished with 13 points. The Irish shot 55 percent for the game.
Derrick Byars led Vanderbilt with 18 points, Julian Terrell added 16 points and Dan Cage 11. Foster, Vanderbilt’s leading scorer at 16.3 points a game, was held to a season-low four points on 1-of-9 shooting, including 0-for-7 from 3-point range.
“It kind of came down to the fact our leading scorer was nowhere what we needed him to be in order to give us a chance to win on either end,” Stallings said. “He wasn’t very good on offense and he was less than that on defense, unfortunately.”
There were 3,317 fans at the game, slightly more than the 2,517 fans at last year’s opening-round NIT loss to Holy Cross, but well below the Joyce Center capacity of 11,418. Brey, though, said the crowd was loud.
“There was energy in that building. They really helped us,” he said.