Cleveland, OH (SportsNetwork.com) - Mike Brey called a timeout early in the second half after Wichita State took its first lead of the night.
Whatever was said in the huddle apparently provided a spark, as Notre Dame took over and rolled to an 81-70 win that ended its long Elite Eight drought.
Early exits in the NCAA Tournament have been commonplace for the Fighting Irish in recent years. They were one-and-done three of four years from 2010-13 and reached the Sweet 16 just once since Brey took over in 2000.
Those demons were exorcised in emphatic fashion Thursday, with Notre Dame lighting up the usually-stingy Shockers for 48 points in the second half on 18-of-24 (75 percent) shooting, including a 6-of-8 effort from behind the arc.
Four Notre Dame players scored in double figures, and a fifth, Wooden Award finalist Jerian Grant, provided 11 assists with just two turnovers to go along with nine points.
Demetrius Jackson poured in 20 points on only 10 shots, and Pat Connaughton added 16 with 10 rebounds in the convincing win.
The third-seeded Irish (32-5), whose last trip to the Elite Eight came in 1979, will need a similar offensive performance when they face undefeated Kentucky in the Midwest Region final on Saturday. Kentucky improved to 37-0 with a 78-39 dismantling of West Virginia in the nightcap at Quicken Loans Arena.
Brey hopes his troops can pull off a minor miracle.
"I just don't want it to end for this particular team because this group has been so energizing and so fun to be around," Brey said. "I don't know if we've had a more special season in the history of our basketball program, but God, I love that I get to go to practice tomorrow with this group again."
Fred VanVleet and Darius Carter carried seventh-seeded Wichita State (30-5) with 25 and 22 points, respectively, while Ron Baker, Tekele Cotton and Evan Wessel combined for just 15 points on 4-of-21 shooting.
Wessel, who scored 12 points in an upset win over Kansas last round, was held scoreless.
The Irish made seven of their first eight shots, including two 3-pointers from Jackson and another from Connaughton as they jumped out to an 18-5 lead.
They proceeded to shoot 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) the rest of the opening half as the Shockers slowly chipped away at their deficit. Baker scored all nine of his points during a 13-3 run that pulled Wichita State within three, and it was still a three-point game, 33-30, at halftime.
Carter scored just over three minutes into the second half to give Wichita State its first and only lead at 38-37.
Coming out of Brey's timeout, Jackson hit back-to-back 3s to start a string of eight straight Notre Dame possessions with baskets. By the time Bonzie Colson scored off an assist from Grant, the Irish were on top 56-46 with under 12 minutes to play.
"When we're in that timeout...it wasn't about strategy, we talked about defense, about getting stops and getting out and running," Connaughton said. "That's the fun way to play and that's the way that we're at our best on both ends of the floor."
The Shockers pulled within six, 60-54, three minutes later, but a Grant 3- pointer ignited a 15-2 run that essentially put the game away. All five starters scored during the four-minute stretch, including Zach Auguste throwing down an emphatic alley-oop dunk over Rashard Kelly.
"We just wanted to battle, try to keep battling throughout the game," VanVleet said. "But they were pretty hot, knocking down shots, so give them all the credit."
The Irish are one victory shy of matching the program record for wins in a season set in the 1908-09 season ... Wichita State fell to 4-2 in regional semifinals ... Notre Dame improved to 6-10 in the Sweet 16 ... Wichita State's Gregg Marshall was the head coach of Winthrop when it upset the Irish in the 2007 NCAA Tournament ... Wichita State opponents came in scoring 56.7 ppg.