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Men’s Basketball: Bracket busted

Eric Prister | Tuesday, March 22, 2011

CHICAGO — In an NCAA tournament filled with upsets, the second-seeded Irish were not immune. No. 10-seed Florida State’s 27th-ranked defense held Notre Dame 18 points below its scoring average on the way to a 71-57 third-round victory.

“Florida State flat out beat us,” Irish coach Mike Brey said in his post-game press conference. “The combination of their defense in the first half and their seven 3-point shots put us on our heels. I thought we had some great looks at times that we didn’t make that we need to make over the top of size like that because you’re not going to get stuff around the bucket. And we’re kind of numb because we invested so much. It just comes to such a screeching halt.”

The Irish shot just 30.6 percent from the floor and 23.3 percent from 3-point range, including only one made 3-pointer in the first half. The Seminoles shot 45.8 percent on the game, including 9-of-19 shooting from long distance.

“Obviously, you’re going to have your nights where you can’t hit any shots,” Irish fourth-year forward Tim Abromaitis said. “It seemed like the first 30 minutes of the game we couldn’t make anything. We normally make those shots, and, obviously, Florida State’s defense had a lot to do with it, and their length and athleticism made them able to close out on guys quick.”

The teams traded baskets to start the game until Seminoles’ junior guard Deividas Dulkys hit a 3, starting a 14-2 Florida State run, one from which it never looked back. Four Seminoles finished the game in double-figures, led by junior forward Bernard James, who scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting and chipped in 10 rebounds.

“I thought, if we had to give up anything, we’d give up some jump shots,” Brey said. “But they made them, and then we’re digging out of a hole.”

For the third time in as many appearances, the Irish were bounced out of the NCAA tournament after an off-night on the offensive end. Brey said this lack of rhythm was the team’s true downfall.

“We have to get into some offensive rhythm, and we really never could do it,” he said. “I think sometimes then you feel the weight of the world on you, and you know, it’s the last game. I think overall this year we played pretty darn loose and attacked, but it was tough at times in the first half when they made some shots and we couldn’t get into a rhythm.”

The loss ends an otherwise successful year for the Irish, who finished the season second in the Big East and received a No. 2-seed, the highest in Brey’s tenure at Notre Dame.

“I am very proud — I said to this group, I’m very, very proud of what they gave us, and those three seniors. But I didn’t want to have a banquet in there tonight. It’s good to be numb because of the guys returning. I want them to just remember how much we invested and that you’re devastated when it ends. That’s being in with both feet.”