DAYTON, Ohio – Notre Dame was tough on the eyes for long stretches Friday night, and this time it had nothing to do with the uniforms.
The Fighting Irish ditched the garish neon green gear they wore in the Big East tournament, and the 12,495 fans gathered at University of Dayton Arena were able to focus their attention on Notre Dame’s play on the court. Maybe the jersey distraction wasn’t such a bad thing.
Looking nothing like a slight underdog, No. 10 Iowa State had no trouble getting to the hoop against a bigger Irish team, and the Cyclones beat No. 7 Notre Dame, 76-58, to advance in the NCAA tournament’s West Region. On Sunday they’ll face No. 2 Ohio State, which beat Iona, 95-70, earlier Friday.
It marked the fourth straight year the Irish made the tournament and the third time in that span that they’ve returned home following an opening-round loss. Iowa State, meanwhile, also reached the second round a year ago, where it lost to top-seeded Kentucky, the eventual national champion.
Entering this tournament, the Cyclones were a difficult team to judge. Sure, they twice took Kansas to overtime, but they lost to the Jayhawks three times this season. Iowa State was 2-6 against top 25 teams and just 1-6 away from home against RPI top 50 teams.
The Cyclones found a nice rhythm in the second half Friday, draining three-pointers, penetrating to the basket and holding their own on the glass. The Irish, sporting white uniforms with bright green trim, plus glowing green socks and sneakers, had no answer for Iowa State junior Melvin Ejim, who finished with 17 points and a team-high 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
After a slow start, Iowa State took the lead on Tyrus McGee’s three-point 11 minutes into the first half, and the Cyclones slowly built on their lead from there. Notre Dame, which led the nation this season in assist-to-turnover ratio, committed 14 of their 18 turnovers in the first half alone, which resulted in 13 early Iowa State points.
As the half wound down, Cyclone senior Will Clyburn sprinted downcourt on an inbounds play and hit a layup at the buzzer to give Iowa State a 12-point lead at the break, its largest advantage of the game at that point.
They built on that lead quickly in the second half, at one point leading by 27.
Four Cyclones reached double-digits in scoring, led by Ejim and freshman Georges Niang, who had 19 points on 9 of 13 shooting.
Notre Dame was led by senior Tom Knight’s 14 points. Senior Jack Cooley, a fierce player who averaged a double-double this season, scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds.
Irish junior Jerian Grant, a DeMatha product and Bowie native, finished with nine points and five rebounds.
Photos: Scenes from Round 1