BROOKLYN, N.Y. – The Irish weren’t about to allow a sluggish first half in the first round of the NCAA tournament to define them.
Trailing by 12 at the break, Notre Dame (22-11) played with a renewed vigor over the final 20 minutes, staving off elimination from the NCAA tournament with a valiant 70-62 victory over Michigan in the wee hours of Saturday morning.
The Irish didn’t take their first lead until the 9:25 mark of the second half on a three-pointer by V.J. Beachem. Beachem nailed all four of his three-point attempts to finish with 18 points.
Notre Dame out-scored the Wolverines 41-22 in the second half.
Notre Dame (22-11), the No. 6 seed in the East Regional, advances to the second round of the NCAA tournament in Brooklyn for a Sunday clash with No. 14 seed Stephen F. Austin (28-5), a 70-56 upset winner over No. 3 seed West Virginia in the first game of the evening session at the Barclays Center.
Michigan, the No. 11 seed, bows out of the NCAA tournament with a 23-13 record and losers of eight of its last 14 games.
Following Beachem in the box score was Bonzie Colson off the bench with 12 points. Demetrius Jackson scored 11 points and Zach Auguste tossed in 10 points to go along with 12 rebounds for his 20th double-double of the season.
Another sluggish start – the norm when Notre Dame struggled during the 2015-16 season – plagued the Irish once again. Early turnovers, missed three-pointers and Michigan’s four three-pointers on its first 10 attempts sparked a 10-0 Wolverine run for a 26-13 lead.
The Irish finally generated some momentum on a three-pointers by Beachem and Jackson, and back-to-back buckets by Auguste for a 12-5 run to pull the Irish within five (34-29) with 1:36 remaining.
But Michigan responded by scoring the last seven points of the half to build the lead back up to 41-29 at the intermission.
Michigan -- which entered the game having converted just 18 of its last 71 three-point attempts (25.3 percent) – made 7-of-14 against the Irish in the first half.
Notre Dame, averaging 9.7 turnovers per game after combining for 35 in two ACC tournament games, coughed it up 10 times in the first half alone and 16 for the game.
Notre Dame converted 8-of-15 three-pointers and 12-of-15 from the free-throw line.
Michigan was led in scoring by Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman with 15 points. Derrick Walton, Jr. tossed in 10.
The victory marked the third time in Notre Dame’s last five NCAA tournament appearances that the Irish have advanced to the second round. Notre Dame has now won four NCAA tournament games in the last two years, the most since the 1977-78 and 1978-79 seasons when the Irish won five.
The victory over Michigan was just the third in the last 15 games against the Wolverines and first since knocking them off at Purcell Pavilion in the opening round of the 2000 NIT under head coach Matt Doherty.
It was Notre Dame eighth NCAA tournament appearance in the last 10 and sixth in the last seven seasons. Mike Brey’s record at Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament fell to 11-10.
Notre Dame is scheduled to play Stephen F. Austin Sunday at approximately 2:40 ET.