BUFFALO, N.Y. — Don’t be fooled by the Mountaineers referring to themselves as “Press” Virginia as a result of their relentless defensive pressure.
This team can score.
Led by Jevon Carter’s 24 points, the Mountaineers outshot Notre Dame in an 83-71 victory Saturday in the West Regional to clinch their third Sweet 16 berth since 2010.
“They thought of us as defensive players,” guard Tarik Phillip said. “But the coaching staff instilled a lot of confidence in us, helped us develop our offensive game, and we became pretty good offensive players.”
West Virginia entered the tournament leading the nation in forcing 20.4 turnovers, also ranking 15th in averaging 82 points. The Mountaineers topped 80 points for the 18th time and also broke the single-season school scoring record set by the Jerry West-led 1958-59 team.
Daxter Miles scored 18 points and Esa Ahmad had nine rebounds.
Carter led the way in matching a season high while going 8 of 15, including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers.
His last 3-pointer all but finished the fifth-seeded Fighting Irish (26-10) as they attempted one final comeback bid.
Matt Ryan of Notre Dame hit a 3-point basket in the right corner to cut West Virginia’s lead to 72-66 with 3:06 left.
Carter responded by crossing through the middle and pulling up to hit a fall-away 3-pointer about 25 seconds later.
“Just staying confident,” said Carter, the Big 12’s defensive player of the year. “When we step on the court we feel like we can beat them. We got hot early and kept going from there. We keep that chip on our shoulder.”
The Mountaineers continue to overcome the sting of last year’s first-round tournament collapse, when they lost to 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin.
Now they’re off to the Round of 16 for the first time since 2015, for the fourth time since Coach Bob Huggins took over in 2007, and seventh time since the NCAA field expanded to 64 teams in 1985.
Notre Dame was denied a chance to reach the Elite Eight for a third consecutive year.
Bonzie Colson led the Fighting Irish hitting 10 of 15 shots, and scoring 27 points with eight rebounds. But his teammates were stymied.
Guard Matt Farrell was limited to eight points, and V.J. Beachem hit 2 of 14 attempts and finished with nine points.
Coach Mike Brey said the difference was Notre Dame falling behind 10-0 and eventually getting worn down from attempting to dig out of such a hole. The Irish did eventually cut the lead to 32-29 only to give up two baskets over a 20-second span in a game the Mountaineers never trailed.
“Any time we thought we’d get this thing to four or get it to two possessions, somebody hit a big 3 or they got a putback,” Brey said. “It’s really spirit-breaking after a while.”
Brey had to gamble in keeping Colson in after Colson picked up his fourth foul with 9:47 left and West Virginia up 59-47. Colson scored 10 of Notre Dame’s next 14 points over a five-minute span.
“It’s horrible,” said Colson, whose shoulders were heaving in emotion as he left the court. “It’s frustrating when you try to play your tail off and play with everything you have, and just leave everything out there.”
GONZAGA 79, NORTHWESTERN 73: Top-seeded Gonzaga (34-1) fought off a wild comeback by eighth-seeded Northwestern (24-12) at Salt Lake City.
Northwestern trimmed a 22-point deficit to five and had the ball when Zach Collins of Gonzaga reached through the basket to reject Dererk Pardon’s shot with 4:54 left.
There was no call, and Coach Chris Collins, jawing with officials all day, ran onto the court and was slapped with a technical foul. Nigel Williams-Goss made both free throws, and eighth-seeded Northwestern, in the NCAA tournament for the first time never got closer.
XAVIER 91, FLORIDA STATE 66: Trevon Bluiett scored 29 points and reserve Kaiser Gates contributed 14 as 11th-seeded Xavier (23-13) pulled off its second upset of the NCAA tournament with a victory against third-seeded Florida State (26-9) at Orlando, Florida.
The Musketeers advanced to the West Regional semifinal, marking the second time in two years and the eighth time in program history they made it to the Sweet 16. The Seminoles were the ACC runners-up.
Florida State was the bigger program from a power conference, but Xavier came in as a tournament-tested team and it showed. The Musketeers dominated the bigger and more athletic Seminoles inside and then put the game out of reach with their superior 3-point shooting.