NEW YORK (AP) — Notre Dame had a good enough start that a tough second half didn't make a difference.
Bonzie Colson had 22 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth career double-double and the Fighting Irish held off Colorado 89-83 on Monday night in the semifinals of the Legends Classic at Barclays Center.
"We got off to a great start, really flowing offensively," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "Second half Colorado really guarded us and we had to find different ways to play. We made free throws and it was kind of a grinding game. I'm proud of how we held people but we have a lot of guys that have won big games and have big game pressure on them. I thought that experience helped us escape tonight."
The Fighting Irish (4-0) will play Northwestern, which beat No. 22 Texas 77-58, for the title on Tuesday.
The Buffaloes (3-1) trailed by 15 points at halftime and were able to get as close as four points twice in the final minute but Notre Dame went 14 for 14 from the free throw line over the final 1:33 to keep Colorado at bay in the first meeting between the schools.
“We switched our defense and coverage and got better from there but they are a good team," Colorado head coach Tad Boyle said during his post-game interview on 760 AM radio. "One of the deals with Notre Dame is you have to keep them off the free-throw line. Obviously late we had to foul to try to get back in the game but they are not going to let you back in the game. That is what good teams do, they are going to make free-throws.
"But the first half, [giving up] 50 points at halftime and they are shooting 54 percent... common, doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the problem is. I like our fight, I like out grit, but we have to play 40 minutes of basketball.”
Xavier Johnson scored 23 points, Derrick White had 20 points and nine assists and George King added 17 points and 13 points for Colorado, which was able to rally in the second half by shooting 16 of 34 from the field (47.1 percent). The Buffaloes finished 18 of 19 from the free throw line.
"There's a sense of urgency. We were down 15 points. The margin of error was very small," King said. "So we had to pick it up defensively. That was our main focus going into the second half."
Notre Dame came out firing and gave itself a comfortable 50-35 halftime lead.
The Fighting Irish shot 54.5 percent (18 of 33) from the field, including making six of 12 3-point attempts in the first half. Colorado, meanwhile, struggled from the field in the first half shooting 37.1 percent (13 of 35).
“We missed a lot of bunnies tonight. We have to get tougher when it comes to finishing in the paint, whether there is contact or not, we have to put the ball in the basket. And we didn't tonight," Boyle said. "I thought we had some really easy baskets that we let go. That is frustrating, but again it goes to the toughness factor that we have to have to beat a good team like Notre Dame.”
Notre Dame: will play Northwestern in the championship game of the Legends Classic.
Colorado: will play No. 22 Texas for third place in the Legends Classic.