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March 25, 2016

Notre Dame fights way past Wisconsin to advance to Elite Eight

March Madness College Basketball
032516_NotreDame_AP Chris Szagola/AP

Notre Dame's Demetrius Jackson goes up for a shot past Wisconsin's Bronson Koenig during the final minute.

It wasn't pretty, but the Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able overcome a slow start and steal -- literally steal -- a win from Wisconsin on Friday night in South Philly. 

The seventh-seeded Badgers, who lead for 33 and a half minutes compared to just over two for six-seed Notre Dame, seemed on their way to a second-straight Elite Eight. And then, in the blink of an eye, Wisconsin had not only squandered its three point-lead, but allowed the Irish to take the lead on this play with under 20 seconds left.

It was a furious finish for Mike Brey's team, who shot just 24 percent from the field in the first half but 57.7 percent in the second. 

In the end, it was a 61-56 win for Notre Dame; the Irish will head back to the Elite Eight for the second year in a row and will face the winner of top-seeded North Carolina and fifth-seeded Indiana. 

Here's more from on game and the scene down at the Wells Fargo Center.

•  It was not the best of game's for Notre Dame's Steve Vasturia. The 6-foot-5 guard from Medford, N.J. -- and St. Joe's Prep product -- was held scoreless in the first half on 0-of-4 shooting -- but finally found the stat sheet in the second half. He finished with just two points (1-6 FG), but, at least, his lone bucket looked something like this:

He also added three rebounds and three assists in his 30 minutes. We'll have more on Vasturia later from Rich Hofmann, who also caught up with his high school coach, Speedy Morris.

•  Notre Dame's V.J. Beachem was the game's leading scorer. He finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, including 3-of-5 from three. The rest of his teammates were a combined 1-for-8 from three and shot just 15-of-44 (34 percent) overall. Ethan Happ led the way for the Badgers, posting 14 points (6-12 FG) and 12 rebounds (six offensive) before fouling out late in the game. During the post game press conference, Happ was visibly upset and spent the first few moments wiping the tears from his eyes.

•  It was hard to tell which team of the four playing on Friday night had the largest contingent of fans. Part of that was due to the fact that Indiana and Wisconsin fans were both wearing slightly different shades of red. But if you ask me, it was the North Carolina Tar Heels that had the most fans (and they didn't even play until the second game). Sure, they had the shortest distance to travel, but given how many people in the area consider themselves to be Notre Dame fans, I expected to see more green in the stands. I guess some fans' allegiance starts and stops with football -- although after the last two seasons, Irish fans may want to start paying attention to their basketball team.

•  While we're on the subject of front-running fans, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie was in the house, presumably to cheer on Notre Dame. 

But with less than 10 minutes remain, as Notre Dame made a run in the second half to take its first lead since early in the first half, the entire section of Irish fans stood to cheer on their team, Christie remained seated, arms crossed. Even when Notre Dame tied it up -- on an alley-oop, no less -- Christie didn't budge. He had more pressing business to take care of...

•  Speaking of well-known names in attendance, both Jim and John Harbaugh were on hand to cheer on brother-in-law and Indiana head coach Tom Crean.

Former NBA star -- and Simon Gratz alum -- Rasheed Wallace was one of many ex-Tar Heels in the stands as well.

•  One of the largest cheers all night -- outside of the final minute -- came on this put-back dunk by Wisconsin's Zak Showalter. He's only 6-foot-2....

The second loudest may have been on this previously mentioned game-tying oop in the final minutes. 

•  Finally, here are the Notre Dame players celebrating on the court following their win.

Sorry, Wisconsin fans.

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin