Notre Dame cruises past Wichita State to first Elite Eight in 37 years

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey experienced one of the great losses of his life last weekend when his mother, Betty, died unexpectedly from a heart attack.

Five days later, Brey experienced one of his best moments as a head coach when his team dispatched a gritty WichitaState team Thursday night 81-70 in Cleveland to advance to the Elite Eight. The Fighting Irish haven’t fought this deep into the NCAA tournament in 37 years.

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The 1978 team loaded with future NBA players went to the Final Four and Brey and his players find themselves a win away from the ultimate stage in the college game. It won’t be easy to get there. They will either have to conquer the undefeated giant known as Kentucky or a constantly pressing West Virginia team if it manages to slay the giant in Thursday’s late game in Cleveland.

“Hey, we got as good a shot as anybody,” Brey said in his postgame television interview with CBS.

WichitaState started slowly in the Sweet 16 game against the Irish, falling behind 18-5 in the early going. Guards Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker combined for 19 of the Shockers’ 30 first-half points and they managed to pull within three at halftime.

WichitaState coach Gregg Marshall called the Shockers’ start ‘horrendous’ during his halftime interview. The second half was worse.

The Shockers had no answers in trying to defend the four-guard lineup Brey used, featuring Demetrius Jackson, Jerian Grant, Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia. That foursome combined to make nine of 18 3-pointers.

Grant was the only Notre Dame starter not to score in double figures, but he played the role of facilitator perfectly. Grant drove and dished to open teammates repeatedly and finished with 11 assists.

Jackson led the Irish with 20 points. Connaughton scored 16 and Vasturia added 15.

WichitaState senior Tekele Cotton’s college career ended with a rough outing. He went 2-for-10 shooting and scored just six points. Fellow senior Darius Carter led the Shockers with 22 points, playing his final game not far from where he grew up in Akron, Ohio.

Game Flow: Wichita State vs. Notre Dame | PointAfter

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[Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!