Notre Dame advances to Sweet 16 for first time since 2003 after 67-64 victory
Sooner or later, Notre Dame would like to be on cruise control for a victory or two and not go down to the wire.
Beggars cannot be choosers.
The Fighting Irish edged out the Butler Bulldogs 67-64 in a thrilling overtime game at the Consol Energy Center. It was the fourth win in as many overtime contests for Notre Dame, moving them to 31-5 overall on the season.
Steve Vasturia collected a team-high 20 points and pulled down 6 rebounds. Jerian Grant continued his stellar campaign with 16 points, including a layup with 18 seconds left to seal the deal for the Irish. Zach Auguste was big on the boards, pulling down 13 rebounds.
Roosevelt Jones was the star of the night for Butler. The junior led the Bulldogs with 23 points, drawing a number of fouls and hitting plenty of acrobatic layups. Andrew Chrabascz paced Butler with 20 points and hit two of three from three-point land. Kellen Dunham, who put up 20 points in the Butler win over Texas, could only manage 8 points against the Irish.
Notre Dame jumped out to a 22-12 lead with 7:47 left to go in the first half. Butler’s Jones, hampered by a tweaked knee, scored 7 of the team’s next 15 points to even the score at 27-27. Vasturia hit a late three to make it a 31-29 Irish lead going into the half.
Butler grabbed the reigns back and went up 47-41 after a jumper from Jones with 9:37 left to go in the second half. Neither team would make a basket in the last 2:56 of regulation. Butler had a chance to win on a Kellen Dunham shot in the corner, but Irish captain Pat Connaughton swatted the ball out of bounds with authority.
Notre Dame did not relinquish its lead at any point in overtime.
This was the first win for Notre Dame over Butler in 26 years and could not have come on a bigger stage. Only 147 miles separate the two schools, but the teams had not competed since the 2006 season. The Irish will await the winner of Kansas and Wichita State for the Round of 16 faceoff in Cleveland next Thursday, March 26.
Brey will look to continue his exorcism of the Notre Dame postseason demons. Unfortunately, heartbreak was not totally unavoidable for the man at the helm tonight.
In his postgame press conference, Brey revealed to the media that his mother, Betty Brey, had passed away from a heart attack Saturday morning. She was 84 years old. Brey did not relay the news to his team because he thought it would weigh on their minds too much.
Despite the tragic news, Brey tried to maintain the same composure and calmness he characteristically displays on the court during games.
“It was kind of a tribute to her, really a special night,” Brey said. “An unbelievable woman, a woman ahead of her time and probably the driving force behind everything I’ve done. I think she was definitely with us down the stretch.”
Brey will travel and be with his family before heading to Cleveland for the Sweet 16.
Jonathan Mehall is a senior at Holy Cross College majoring in communication with a minor in sports management. Contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org.