NEW YORK — With momentum finally in hand, Bonzie Colson pounded his chest and screamed in triumph.
Matt Farrell looked over at former Notre Dame star LaPhonso Ellis, broadcasting courtside for ESPN, and yelled: “I told you Phonso, we ain’t done!”
The biggest comeback in Fighting Irish history came just in time Wednesday night — and that was worth hollering about.
Colson banked in a go-ahead, 3-point heave that barely beat the shot clock with two minutes remaining, and Notre Dame rallied from 21 down in the second half to stun Virginia Tech 71-65 at the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
“How about that, huh?” Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. “I’ve never been prouder of a group, because they were thumping us pretty good.”
Farrell scored 22 points for the 10th-seeded Irish (20-13), who overcame a dreadful start in extending their late push to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Finally healthy after injuries to Colson and Farrell nearly wrecked a promising season, Notre Dame advanced to play Thursday night in the quarterfinals against fifth-ranked and second-seeded Duke, the defending tournament champion.
Do the Irish need to win at least that one, too, in order to make the field of 68?
Hard to say — but they sure woke up the echoes on this snowy night in Brooklyn.
“I’ve never been a big guy to campaign, but I think we really deserve to be in,” Brey said. “When I have my guys back, we’re a top-20 team, and I think people on that committee know that. I feel strongly that we should be part of it. We have another great opportunity to end all the drama of it (Thursday) night, but we need to get some rest.”
North Carolina beats Syracuse 78-59
NEW YORK — Theo Pinson pinpointed the reason North Carolina had success attacking Syracuse’s 2-3 zone.
“Getting me the ball,” the Tar Heels senior forward and resident comedian said.
Pinson was joking, but as with all good comedy there was some truth in the punchline.
Pinson had 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists and Kenny Williams scored 17 points as No. 12 North Carolina beat Syracuse 78-59 on Thursday night to advance to the quarterfinals of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.
The sixth-seeded Tar Heels (23-9) face third-seeded Miami on Thursday night in the quarterfinals at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
After shooting 38 percent in the first half against Syracuse, the Tar Heels settled for fewer jumpers in the second and found some soft spots in the zone.
“Coach said yesterday in practice we’re such an unselfish team he doesn’t really have to worry about us moving the ball,” Pinson said. “You see tonight, I think it was multiple times, guys had shots and they were looking for their teammates.”
Oshae Brissett scored 20 points and made five 3s for 11th-seeded Syracuse (20-13), which never got closer than nine down in the second half. The Orange will head toward NCAA Tournament Selection Sunday firmly on the bubble for an at-large bid.
Oklahoma State beats Oklahoma 71-60 in Big 12
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Oklahoma State coach Mike Boynton wasted no time this week pondering whether his team had done enough to merit an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
That’s because the Big 12 Tournament winner gets in automatically.
“I just control the things I can control, and the only thing I’ve been worried about since we played Saturday was getting my team ready to play,” Boynton said after the eighth-seeded Cowboys’ 71-60 victory over No. 9 seed Oklahoma in the opening round Wednesday night.
“We came here to win the Big 12 Tournament. We’ll worry about what next week brings next week.”
Porter Jr. to return for Missouri at SEC Tournament
ST. LOUIS — Missouri standout Michael Porter Jr. will return from back surgery to play in the Southeastern Conference Tournament on Thursday, marking his first time in a game since the season opener.
Coach Cuonzo Martin announced the change in Porter’s status on Wednesday, a day before the fifth-seeded Tigers (20-11) open against either Georgia or Vanderbilt in the second round.
The 6-foot-10 Porter, the top prep prospect in the country last season, has been out since playing only two minutes in the Tigers’ season-opening win over Iowa State. He underwent surgery in November and was expected to miss the rest of the season .