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Steve Vasturia, Bonzie Colson lead Notre Dame over Florida State

By
Everett Merrill, The Sports Xchange

NEW YORK -- The reviews of the Barclays Center this week as the first-time host to the ACC Tournament have been extremely positive.

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey offered even more praise as his team won its seventh straight at the Brooklyn arena with a 77-73 decision over Florida State in the semifinals on Friday.

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"We believe here," Brey said about the building that's also home to the NBA's Nets and the NHL's Islanders. "When you had the success we had in the NCAA Tournament here last year, it was so dramatic. We talked about the karma when we came back here for the Legends Classic. And I think we believed, and these two games we feel really comfortable.

"We get a good fan base up here. But we feel good about this building."

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No. 22 Notre Dame (25-8), seeded third, will face fifth-seeded Duke in the title game on Saturday. The Fighting Irish won this tournament in 2015 and lost to North Carolina in the semifinals in 2016.

Duke dispatched top-seeded North Carolina in the other semifinal on Friday.

Notre Dame has eliminated Duke from the tournament each of the past two seasons, including a semifinal victory in 2015.

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Since defeating BYU in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Cancer Classic at Barclays in 2012, the Irish have knocked off Michigan and Stephen F. Austin to reach the NCAA's Sweet 16 last year, then knocked off Northwestern earlier this season in the Legends Classic.

Brey's group bumped off No. 21 Virginia, 71-58, in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Steve Vasturia and Bonzie Colson scored 18 points each to lead the Irish. Vasturia hit 4 of Notre Dame's 13 3-pointers.

The Irish have thrived with their small lineup, featuring the 6-foot-5 Colson at center. It puts shooters everywhere on the floor and presents matchup problems for bigger teams -- such as Florida State. It also helped Notre Dame overcome getting outrebounded 41-23 by the Seminoles.

Matt Farrell, who grew up in New Jersey, tossed in 15 for the Irish, who have won eight of their last nine games.

"I think it's obvious we have a lot of fun playing here," Farrell said. "For me, it's fun playing close to home, a lot of family and friends here.

"I think all of us are just really comfortable here with the things that have happened in the past with us playing here. I think a lot of guys enjoy it here. A lot of guys love being in the city, and we just have a lot of fun together here.

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Dwayne Bacon topped No. 16 Florida State (25-8), seeded second. Braian Angola-Rojas netted 17 points and Jonathan Isaac grabbed 15 rebounds.

Florida State made it interesting by finishing on a 16-7 run.

V.J. Beachem's traditional three-point play extended the Irish lead to 70-57 with 6:21 left.

Angola-Rodas brought Florida State back with his long-range shooting. He hit three treys in 4:24 to get the Seminoles to 60-52 with 9:00 left to play. Notre Dame maintained a double-digit advantage the majority of the way until the Seminoles were able to close to 72-66 with a 7-0 run in the final three minutes.

Notre Dame took its biggest lead, 49-31, after Vasturia hit a jumper four minutes into the second half.

Colson delivered 11 points to help the Irish to a 42-26 halftime lead. Notre Dame was effective sharing the ball in the half, recording 11 assists on 16 made shots. Farrell was a sparkplug running the offense from the point with five assists.

The Seminoles struggled from long distance, failing to connect on any of their seven 3-pointers in the first half.

"I thought they (Notre Dame) shot the ball extremely well," Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. "It wasn't that our defense was necessarily that bad. They hit some great catch-and-shoot shots that were exceptional. I thought the early part of the game kind of put us back on our heel.

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"We normally can do a much better job getting to the shooters, but they executed very well. They caught the ball and shot the ball so quickly with accuracy that it gave them the lead.

"We dug a hole for ourselves that was difficult to dig out of. To their credit, I thought they played more to who they are than we did. Hopefully, we'll learn from that as we move on to the NCAA Tournament."

NOTES:

-- Notre Dame F Bonzie Colson is the only player in the ACC to average a double-double with 17.1 points per game and 10.4 rebounds.

-- Notre Dame had the second best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country, trailing only UCLA.

-- Notre Dame's 80.5 free throw percentage is the best in the nation.

-- Florida State was playing its fourth game this season at the Barclays Center.

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