INDIANAPOLIS, March 22 (UPI) -- Dan Miller made his first five three-point tries and scored a career-high 23 points Saturday as fifth-seeded Notre Dame advanced to the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16 for the first time in 16 years with a 68-60 triumph over No. 4 Illinois in the West Region.
Notre Dame (24-9) lost four of five entering the tournament and survived a close call in Thursday's 70-69 triumph over Wisconsin-Milwaukee. But the Fighting Irish rode its perimeter attack for 11 three-pointers in the first half to take control of their first matchup with the Fighting Illini since 1973.
"We're going to the Sweet 16, but I know we're not satisfied and I'm not satisfied yet," Miller said. "We're going to try our best to get as far as we can."
Miller transferred from Maryland for his senior season and missed the Terrapins' run to the national championship. He was jeered earlier in the season in a visit to Maryland, but displayed some of his experience from reaching the Final Four two seasons ago.
"The main reason I came here was Coach (Mike) Brey," Miller said. "My brother (Greg) played for him in Delaware. Just coming from Maryland, I had great experience there and I had great friendships there."
Brey, who celebrated his 44th birthday, felt that Miller's 11 games of NCAA Tournament experience was a factor.
"Dan Miller has made us an overall tougher team," Brey said. "No question, he has talked in our locker room on what it takes to advance. He has helped us take the next step."
Miller and Carroll started the game with three-pointers for a 6-0 lead and Notre Dame never trailed. Miller made all five three-pointers for 17 points in the first half as the Fighting Irish built a 47-34 halftime advantage.
Illinois (25-7) got within 66-60 with 1:29 remaining on a tip-in by freshman Deron Williams. The Fighting Illini got back the ball, but Williams missed the rim on a three-point attempt with 42 seconds to go.
"Today we didn't finish when we needed to," Illinois Coach Bill Self said. "We had plenty of looks, but we didn't play them the way we should have."
Chris Thomas scored 17 points and Matt Carroll added 11 despite playing on a sprained knee. Freshman Torin Francis provided a physical presence on the glass with 14 rebounds.
Led by Miller, Notre Dame shot 69 percent from beyond the arc in the first half and made 13 of 24 for the game.
"It's important to get a good start in these types of games, especially against a team like Illinois," Brey said.
The Illini could not match the Irish's firepower and shot just 35 percent. They connected on five of 17 three-point attempts.
Big Ten Player of the Year Brian Cook collected 19 points and 16 rebounds, but was defended well by Francis and made just six of 23 shots.
"In the first half, they were trying to get us into a big man's game and it wasn't really effective," Francis said.
"I took the same shots I have all year," said Cook, who shot plenty of jumpers. "Usually they go in, but today they didn't."
Illinois' Nick Smith made a layup to cut the deficit to 21-20 just past the midway point of the first half. Miller responded with back-to-back three-pointers to trigger a 16-4 burst and capped it with another shot from beyond the arc for a 13-point advantage.