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Princeton came this close to upsetting Notre Dame with a deep 3

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So close, but the Irish are moving on.

The No. 12 Princeton Tigers almost delivered No. 5 Notre Dame a crushing March Madness upset in first game of the NCAA tournament’s first round. The Tigers trailed by a point and carried the ball up the court in the game’s final 10 seconds, but they settled for a long three-pointer and missed it. Notre Dame escaped with a 60-58 win.

Princeton’s Devin Cannady opted to shoot a three-pointer instead of driving to the basket, even though two points would’ve won the game. The three was a deep one, and it didn’t fall. It would’ve been a remarkable moment if it had.

Cannady had about four seconds when he rolled off a pick attempt and took a pass beyond the arc. The shot wasn’t horrible, but Cannady did have a hand in his face from a charging Notre Dame guard. He’ll wish he had it back, even though Princeton’s play design suggests this was, more or less, the shot the Tigers wanted. Cannady wouldn’t have slipped away for a pick-and-pop triple if he wasn’t prepared to shoot it.

A Notre Dame free throw on the other end made the lead 60-58 for the Irish, and Princeton didn’t have enough time to try again.

Princeton forced a defensive stop and called a timeout with 20.4 seconds, trailing by three. That gave coach Mitch Henderson and his team a chance to think up a game-tying play. Their first attempt at an inbound was nearly intercepted by Notre Dame, on a telegraphed pass across the court for a quick three-pointer. The second produced an open three for Steven Cook. He missed, but the Tigers got a tip-in to stay alive.

Princeton’s tenacious, and it wasn’t surprising to see the Tigers would give the Irish a game. They entered on a 19-game winning streak. They didn’t have any marquee wins, but they’d been decent against teams like VCU, Monmouth, and Cal in the early season. Their winning streak included a triumph over Bucknell, a tournament team. They’ve shot well this season and done a good job avoiding turnovers on offense.

In recent seasons, the Irish regularly had fights on their hands from lower-seeded tournament teams. The Irish made the Elite Eight in 2016 and 2015, but they never cruised there. They had to hold off a pesky 14th seed, Northeastern, for a four-point win in their first tournament game two years ago. They almost lost to another No. 14, Stephen F. Austin, in the round of 32 last year. The Irish were used to tests from potential (or real) Cinderellas, and Princeton was only the latest.