Rushed Reactions: #6 Notre Dame 76, #14 Stephen F. Austin 75

Posted by Brian Otskey on March 20th, 2016

Rush the Court will be providing wall-to-wall coverage of each of the NCAA Tournament from each of the 13 sites this year. Follow our NCAA Tourney specific Twitter accounts at @RTCEastregion, @RTCMWregion,@RTCSouthregion and @RTCWestregion.

Three Key Takeaways.

Rex Pflueger’s only basket of the game sent Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. (Photo: Robert Deutsch, USA TODAY Sports)

  1. One Shining Moment. Welcome to the montage, Rex Pflueger. The California kid tipped in Zach Auguste‘s missed shot with one second remaining to send Notre Dame to the Sweet Sixteen. It was a classic example of this tournament creating an iconic moment for a player not many people have heard of. It was Pflueger’s only two points of the game and his first made field goal since Notre Dame’s regular season finale against North Carolina State on March 5. For the time being, Pflueger saved Notre Dame’s season. We will see his one shining moment on video for years to come.
  2. Notre Dame won this game in the paint. The Fighting Irish scored 52 of their 76 points either in the paint or from the foul line as they took advantage of a substantial size edge. Auguste led the way, but the Notre Dame guards did a fantastic job getting into the paint and creating for both themselves and teammates. It is incredibly difficult to win games in this tournament when a team is passive offensively, and the Irish were the antithesis of passive this afternoon. Notre Dame was aggressive and efficient en route to shooting 56.9 percent from the floor for the game. A lot of that had to do with Auguste and his team’s dominance around the rim.
  3. What more can you say about Stephen F. Austin? The Lumberjacks put on quite a display this week in Brooklyn. On Friday night they took out a West Virginia team that many experts said could contend for a spot in the Final Four. They beat the Mountaineers at their own game and today they were one missed defensive rebound away from making the first Sweet Sixteen appearance in school history. Thomas Walkup is a special player who got better in each of his four years in Nacogdoches. He had 21 points today after scoring 33 two nights ago against West Virginia, performances that nearly carried his team to the second weekend. With the Lumberjacks losing Walkup, Demetrious Floyd, Clide Geffrard, Trey Pinkney and Jared Johnson to graduation, the focus now will turn to head coach Brad Underwood and whether or not he stays with the program. He will likely be mentioned as a candidate for the open Big 12 jobs at Oklahoma State and TCU.
Star of the Game: Zach Auguste, Notre Dame. The Irish big man dominated the paint against the undersized Lumberjacks to the tune of 16 points and 15 rebounds, his unbelievable 21st double-double of the season (in 34 games played). Stephen F. Austin had no answer for him in the post but actually held its own on the boards in being out-rebounded by only four.


  • Mike Brey, expressing his emotions on this game: “Are you kidding me? Are you freakin’ kidding me? That was unbelievable. God, that was fun. Certainly, I’m very proud of our group because it didn’t look very good for us.”
  • Rex Pflueger on his game-winning tip-in: “I didn’t expect that to be honest. I just crashed the board.”
  • Brad Underwood talking about his seniors: “They’ve set a new standard for SFA basketball. They’ve set a new culture for SFA basketball. For that, I will be forever grateful.”
  • Thomas Walkup reflecting on his team’s run and his college career: “Whenever I came to SFA, I hadn’t dreamed of winning games in the NCAA Tournament. It was just about getting here and being part of the show. So to come in with Trey and do what we did in the time we were here, it’s extremely special, something to hold on to for forever.”

Sights and Sounds: The Cinderella effect clearly turned the non-partisan fans at Barclays Center into Lumberjack supporters. The energy in the crowd turned up considerably about three quarters of the way through the second half as Stephen F. Austin came back to take the lead. Notre Dame had plenty of fans and alumni from the area in attendance, but this was definitely a pro-Lumberjacks crowd. Former presidential candidate and New Jersey governor Chris Christie was spotted in the crowd supporting the Irish. Christie, a University of Delaware alumnus, is friends with Mike Brey, who coached the Blue Hens from 1995 to 2000 before moving to South Bend.

What’s Next: Notre Dame advances to the regional semifinal next Friday in Philadelphia where it will await the winner of tonight’s Xavier-Wisconsin game. This is the Fighting Irish’s 17th appearance in the Sweet Sixteen but only its third since 1987. Stephen F. Austin checks out of the NCAA Tournament one basket shy of what would have been its first-ever trip to the Sweet Sixteen. The Lumberjacks finish the season with at 28-6.

Brian Otskey (269 Posts)

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