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Men’s Basketball

Career day from Ryan leads Irish to upset over Crimson Tide

| Friday, March 18, 2022

Fans witnessed the Cormac Ryan show Friday afternoon in San Diego, California.

The senior guard scored a career-high 29 points to lead eleventh-seeded Notre Dame to an upset over sixth-seeded Alabama in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. Ryan shot an impressive 10-13 from the floor, including 7-9 from beyond the arc. He led all scorers and helped the Irish advance to the round of 32. His seven triples become a new Notre Dame tournament record. 

“His energy and wanting to go after it is really special right now. It comes at a great time,” head coach Mike Brey said of Ryan’s performance. “I knew he‘d be ready, the way he was talking, the way he was talking to his teammates. He senses the moment for us, and he‘s been a great leader.”

Many questioned if the short turnaround and cross-country flight would impact Notre Dame after their thrilling, double-overtime victory over Rutgers in Dayton on Wednesday night. However, the Irish showed no signs of fatigue in the first half. 

“It‘s a great feeling, to be able to win the game like that, to be able to grit it out,” Ryan said. “People were saying double overtime, long flight, legs are going to be tired. We were gunning and we were ready to go, and it just feels special.”

Ryan was the hot hand early, while graduate student forward Paul Atkinson Jr., who had scored 26 against Rutgers, was more limited offensively. Ryan had 11 of the team’s first 16 points and finished the opening frame with 18 points on 7-8 shooting — nearly half of the team’s total offensive output. The Irish shot 59.3% from the field and knocked down 6 of 8 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes. The team entered the locker room leading 41-36. 

“We have guys who can erupt at any moment,” Ryan said. “It‘s not like it‘s my time to do it. I need to get mine. We are sharing in each other‘fs success to the highest level, and that‘s just special to be a part of.”

Foul trouble was an issue early. Freshman guard Blake Wesley picked up his second less than five minutes into the contest, while senior guard Prentiss Hubb also had two fouls in the first half. However, both players returned to the floor quickly, and no one on the team finished with more than three fouls. 

The Crimson Tide were dealt a major blow just minutes into the contest when second-leading scorer Jahvon Quinerly was helped off the court with a knee injury and didn’t return. 

Senior forward Nate Laszewski opened the second half with a three for Notre Dame, but Crimson Tide guard JD Davison scored six quick points to cut the lead to just two points. However, Ryan drilled another three, and Atkinson converted an and-one in an 8-0 run that put the Irish up by double digits for the first time in the contest with 12:48 to play. Alabama wouldn’t come within 8 points for the remainder of the game. 

After a quiet first half, Wesley was outstanding for the Irish in the second half on both ends of the floor. He added 14 points and three steals in the second frame, including six straight points midway through the half that ignited the Irish. That run, which started with a fast-break slam, extended the lead from eight points to 14 and extinguished any remaining momentum the Tide had. 

“[I am] thrilled about our resiliency and belief in wanting to survive and advance in this tournament,” Brey said. 

The Irish will now take on third-seeded Texas Tech on Sunday with the hopes of advancing to the Sweet 16. The Red Raiders have consistently been ranked in the top 15 since mid-January. They were dominant in their opening-round win over Montana State. However, the Irish remain hungry and won’t be intimidated. 

“Coach Brey has said, from the moment we got selected, once you‘re in that tournament, those numbers in front of the names, they go away and then it‘s just 5-on-5,” Ryan said. “We played like that [today]. We‘re not afraid of anybody, and we‘re a hungry group.”

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