JOHN WAWROW, AP Sports Writer
BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — Bonzie Colson scored 18 points and Notre Dame survived a first-round NCAA Tournament scare by pulling out a 60-58 win over Princeton.
The West Region’s 12th-seeded Tigers had a chance to pull ahead on their final possession, but Devin Cannady missed an open 3-pointer just before the final horn. Notre Dame’s Steve Vasturia pulled down the rebound and was fouled.
The Fighting Irish (26-9) nearly squandered an 11-point second half lead. Guard Matt Farrell scored 16 points, but missed the front end of a one-and-one with Notre Dame up 59-58.
Spencer Weisz led the Tigers with 15 points. The Ivy League champion Tigers (23-7) had a 19-game winning streak going into the NCAA Tournament.
Notre Dame improved to 9-2 in its past 11. The Fighting Irish have also won seven of nine tournament games over the past three years, and they are the only team to reach the Elite Eight in each of the past two seasons.
“No matter how it looked, we got the win and that’s all that matters,” Colson said.
The Fighting Irish didn’t make it look easy. They led 59-54 with 1:10 left when Colson hit a pair of free throws.
The Tigers scored the next two baskets. Pete Miller put back a missed Cannady 3-pointer with 54 seconds left.
Farrell missed a 14-footer, and the Tigers cut the lead to 1 when Miller scored again, this time putting back a miss by Steven Cook.
“We’ve been in games like that. I’m really proud we’re still alive,” Fighting Irish coach Mike Brey said.
The Tigers are known for making things tough on highly seeded teams .
In 1989 the Tigers nearly became the first No. 16 seed to take down a No. 1 when coach Pete Carril and his undersized squad took mighty Georgetown and twin towers Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo, to the final buzzer in a 50-49 loss. Seven years later, current Princeton coach Mitch Henderson played for Carril’s 13th-seeded squad that scored a 43-41 first-round upset of defending national champion UCLA.
The Tigers led just once in the first half, building a 17-15 edge with 11:24 remaining, when Amir Bell scored on a transition drive, was fouled and completed the three-point play. The Fighting Irish regained the lead two minutes later when Colson scored from the right post.
Princeton had numerous scoring opportunities but failed to capitalize on open looks at the basket. That was particularly the case for Steven Cook, who hit just two of eight attempts in the first half. That included a missed open layup after the Tigers won the opening tipoff.
COMING OUT COLD: The Tigers missed five of their first six attempts through the first 5-1/2 minutes, with Weisz scoring the only basket, a 3-pointer 2:55 in to cut Notre Dame’s lead to 4-3.
CHRIS CHRISTIE SIGHTING: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie watched the game from behind the Notre Dame bench. Christie’s son Andrew played baseball at Princeton, while his daughter, Sarah, has been a Fighting Irish team manager. Christie is also a long-time friend of Brey.
IN STITCHES: Fighting Irish guard Rex Pflueger left the game about six minutes in with a cut to his left forehead after being elbowed by Princeton’s Cook, who was driving the lane. The cut required between six to seven stitches to close and returned to the bench with about seven minutes left in the half. A TV sideline reporter said Pflueger asked a fan to take a picture of his stitches because he thought they looked cool.
Notre Dame: Plays winner of 4th-seeded West Virginia versus 13th-seeded Bucknell on Saturday.
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