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Notre Dame shoots past Wichita State and into Elite Eight

Jerian Grant of the Notre Dame Fighting

Jerian Grant of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates with Pat Connaughton after a play in the second half against the Wichita State Shockers during the Midwest Regional semifinal of the 2015 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Quicken Loans Arena on March 26, 2015 in Cleveland. Credit: Getty Images / Andy Lyons

CLEVELAND - Revenge is a dish that will not be served by Wichita State. The Shockers were one win away from a potential shot at spoiling Kentucky's undefeated record the way the Wildcats did to them in last year's NCAA Tournament. But it won't happen.

Notre Dame edited the "storybook ending,'' using precision passing and deadly three-point marksmanship to deny Wichita State, 81-70, in a Midwest Regional semifinal Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

The Irish shot 9-for-19 from three-point range compared to 3-for-18 for Wichita State (30-5), which got 25 points from Fred VanVleet and 22 from Darius Carter.

The Irish (32-5) advanced to Saturday's regional final against Kentucky (37-0).

Wichita State (30-5) fought back from a 13-point first-half deficit to take its only lead of the game at 38-37 on a layup by Carter with 16:31 to play. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called timeout, and when the Irish returned to the floor, guard Demetrious Jackson buried two three-pointers to trigger a 17-6 run in which he added another layup to help rebuild the lead to 54-44.

"Notre Dame is the best offensive team we've seen all year, hands down,'' Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. "After we took the one-point lead, they came out with a barrage of threes. It was very quick.

"Demetrious Jackson was the catalyst. He did it at the beginning of the game and he did it when we got the one-point lead.''

Brey said the way his team responded in the second half was reminiscent of its victory over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game.

"We took a timeout,'' Brey said. "There was no drama. And then we got into one of our rhythms that no one else in the country can do.''

Jackson led Notre Dame with 20 points, shooting 7-for-10. Pat Connaughton added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Zach Auguste scored 16 points, Steve Vasturia had 15 and Jerian Grant contributed nine points and 11 assists.

Notre Dame opened by making eight of its first 10 shots, including three three-pointers, for a 20-7 lead. But the Irish went cold, making only four of their final 20 shots of the half as Wichita State cut the deficit to 33-30 at halftime.

"We felt good about battling back after starting the first half terrible,'' VanVleet said. "We wanted to open the second half the right way, and we did that. They hit some threes, but we could live with that. We gave up way too many easy looks inside. They shot layup after layup, it seemed.''

Notre Dame extended its lead to 12, but the Shockers applied a full-court press that sparked a 6-0 burst and cut the deficit to 60-54. The press also opened the floor for the Irish, though. Grant buried a three-pointer with the shot clock buzzing before it hit the net, triggering another 10-2 Notre Dame burst that pushed the lead to 70-56.

Wichita State's Ron Baker said the way Notre Dame spread the floor with its shooters made it nearly impossible to defend the screen-and-roll.

"They shot the cover off it,'' Baker said. "I've never seen a team shoot like they did.''

Notre Dame's Jackson appreciated the compliments from the Shockers. "We do a great job sharing the ball,'' he said. "It's a great way to play the game.''

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