The ball seemed to hang on the rim for an eternity, balancing on the rim that has been so forgiving this week at the Maui Invitational.
But with 3.3 seconds left in the game and a championship on the line and the game-tying free throw in the air, it made things even more excruciating.
Sure enough, Martinas Geben’s first free throw rolled into the basket. After trailing Wichita State for nearly 38 minutes of the game, Notre Dame was tied. Geben swished the second free throw and the Fighting Irish had their first lead since the opening minutes.
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A last-second chance by Wichita State was fumbled away and No. 13 Notre Dame emphatically celebrated a thrilling 16-point comeback to defeat No. 6 Wichita State 67-66. The Shockers stared in silence at the celebration they were sure they would be having.
WSU had a three-point lead with the ball and 16 seconds left, how did this happen?
It started when Wichita State turned the ball over on the in-bounds play, as the ball was stripped from Austin Reaves and scored by Bonzie Colson (25 points, 11 rebounds). Then Reaves was fouled and missed the front-end of the one-and-one free throw.
Notre Dame rebounded and Matt Farrell (15 points) took off toward the rim and attempted a lay-up that Rauno Nurger came over to swat. The rebound became a loose ball on the floor and it was a tie-up that went to Notre Dame with 3.3 seconds remaining.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey drew up an in-bounds play that featured Farrell coming off a double-screen to the corner, then sending another player following him to the corner to draw the attention of Wichita State’s post player who was guarding the screener. Sure enough, Shaquille Morris jumped to the corner to deny the pass and Geben slipped to the rim and Morris was forced to foul.
Geben made both free throws to give Notre Dame a 67-66 lead. Wichita State had to go the length of the floor in three seconds and the in-bounds pass went to Shamet at mid-court, but his first dribble bounced away and Wichita State did not get a final attempt.
It was a breakout performance for senior Zach Brown, who before Wednesday had made 1 of 9 three-pointers, scored 13 points in four games, and contributed mostly with just his perimeter defense. But Brown delivered a career-high four three-pointers and scored a team-high 14 points.
Frankamp scored 12 points, all in the first half, and Shamet finished with 10 points and seven assists.
WSU led 37-23 at halftime, but struggled against Notre Dame’s zone in the second half.