Eighth straight win puts Irish in Elite Eight

Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points on 7-of-10 shooting as third-seeded Notre Dame used a hot-shooting second half to knock off the seventh-seeded Wichita State 81-70 in the NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional semifinal in Cleveland.

Pat Connaughton collected 16 points and 10 rebounds and Steve Vasturia and Zach Auguste added 15 points apiece for Notre Dame (32-5), which will face Kentucky or West Virginia in the regional final Saturday. Jerian Grant contributed nine points and 11 assists as the Fighting Irish won their eighth straight game.

Fred VanVleet scored 25 points to lead Wichita State (30-5), which was 3-for-18 from 3-point range. Darius Carter added 22 points and a team-high eight rebounds while Ron Baker was limited to nine points on 2-of-10 shooting.

The Fighting Irish hit eight of their first 10 shots to race to a 20-7 lead before going cold for the final 13 1/2 minutes of the half. The Shockers pulled within 33-30 at the break and took their only lead on Darius Carter’s jumper with 16:41 to play, but it lasted less than a minute before Jackson hit back-to-back 3-pointers as Notre Dame regained control.

Rashard Kelly scored at both ends of a 6-0 spurt to pull the Shockers within 60-54 with 8:56 remaining, but Grant answered with a 3-pointer, Auguste converted a layup and an alley-oop from Jackson, and Connaughton buried a 3 to push it to 70-56 with 6:23 left. Vasturia later drained a triple as part of the 15-2 run that put it away for the Irish.

GAME NOTEBOOK: Notre Dame was 18-of-24 from the field in the second half after going 12-of-30 before the break. … Grant’s 11 assists are the most by any player in this season’s NCAA Tournament, and he’s the first Notre Dame player with double-digit assists in an NCAA Tournament game. … Notre Dame improved to 29-0 when shooting for a higher percentage than its opponent and 19-0 when scoring at least 80 points.

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