BUFFALO, N.Y. – The anxiety that comes with the first game of the first day of the NCAA tournament is unique.
So is the pressure that Princeton applies.
Notre Dame survived both Thursday afternoon in the KeyBank Center.
After taking an 11-point second-half lead, the Irish (26-9) took Princeton’s best punch and came away with a 60-58 victory.
The Irish snapped Princeton’s 19-game winning streak.
Princeton had an opportunity to tie the game in the waning seconds. But Steven Cook’s three-point attempt was short. Princeton’s Pete Miller tipped it in to pull the Tigers to within a point.
Matt Farrell then missed the front end of a one-and-one. Princeton’s Devin Cannady had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but his long three-pointer was off. Steve Vasturia iced it by converting the first of two free throws with 0.4 seconds remaining.
The Irish made just four three-pointers and converted 14-of-21 from the free-throw line. Notre Dame applied enough pressure against the sharpshooting Tigers (23-7), who attempted 31 three-pointers and converted just eight.
For the most part, Notre Dame played a jittery game against Princeton’s tenacious defense. The exception to the rule was Farrell (at least until the final minute), who made 6-of-9 shots, including three of Notre Dame’s four three-pointers, to finish with 16 points.
Bonzie Colson, hobbled by a right foot injury suffered five days earlier in the ACC tournament championship game, scored 18 points. Vasturia was the only other Irish player to finish in double digits with 10.
Spencer Weisz paced the Tigers with 15 points while Steven Cook tossed in 11 and Myles Stephens had 10.
A 9-4 run to start the second half turned a six-point Irish lead into an 11-point cushion.
Princeton missed eight of its first 10 three-point attempts, but back-to-back long-range jumpers by Weisz and Cannady cut Notre Dame’s lead back down to two with under six minutes left in the first half.
The Tigers made 3-of-7 three-pointers to close out the first 20 minutes as the Irish settled for 36-30 lead. Notre Dame out-rebounded the Tigers in the first half, 23-14
Matt Ryan sparked the Irish off the bench in the first half, scoring six first-half points as Rex Pflueger was tended to in the locker room for a cut above his left eye six minutes into the game.
Notre Dame advances to Saturday action to take on the winner of No. 4 seed West Virginia and No. 13-seed Bucknell.