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No. 3 Notre Dame advances to Sweet 16 in a thrilling OT win over No. 6 Butler

Pat Connaughton

AP Photo


Pat Connaughton had been struggling all night long, but the second-leading scorer for No. 3 Notre Dame made the two biggest plays of the night for the Irish.

The first came as he swatted a would-be game-winning Kellen Dunham three out of bounds on Butler’s final possession in regulation:

The block that sent Butler and Notre Dame to OT. #MarchMadness #ndvsbutler

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 22, 2015

The second came during the overtime, as the senior buried a three to put the Irish ahead 62-59, a lead that they would never relinquish as Notre Dame advanced past No. 6 Butler, 67-64. That wasn’t the only drama we had in Saturday’s nightcap. Twice in the final 1:30 of regulation, starting center Zach Auguste committed sloppy turnovers that nearly cost his team the game. The latter was a double-dribble as he tried to line up a half-court heave with 2.0 seconds left, giving Butler the ball with the game tied and setting up Connaughton’s block. That came after Kellen Dunham buried this bomb to tie the game with three minutes left:

HIGHLIGHT: Butler showing range

— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 22, 2015

The game was changed in overtime when Alex Barlow fouled out. Butler lost their best perimeter defender, and that allowed Jerian Grant and Demetrius Jackson to be able to get into the lane off the bounce. Jackson set up Connaughton’s three, while Grant set up a three for Steve Vasturia -- who finished with 20 points -- on the ensuing possession and put the finishing touches on the game with a driving layup to push the Notre Dame lead to 67-62.

It’s Notre Dame’s first Sweet 16 since 2003.

After the game, Mike Brey announced that his mother had died on Saturday morning. She was 84.

Before I move on, a quick note on Butler: The Bulldogs have themselves a good one in Chris Holtmann. Think about the situation that this program was dealing with this year. Their head coach left the team on the eve of practice. Holtmann steps in as an interim coach and leads them to a couple of impressive wins, including North Carolina and Georgetown, before Big East play even begins. Then he keeps them in the top 25 all year long, signing a five-year deal with the school in the process.

Should I mention that they went 4-14 in league play last season?

Some of that is a testament to the kids in that program and “The Butler Way”, but you have to give an endless amount of credit to the job that Holtmann did this year.

He may not be Brad Stevens -- who is? -- but he’ll keep the Bulldogs at the top of the Big East for a long time to come.