ND offsets Butler bruisers; on to Sweet 16

PITTSBURGH – After leading for more than half the game, and then allowing Butler to go on an 11-0 run, Notre Dame surged back, jostled for position down the stretch, took the game into overtime, and eventually pulled out a 67-64 victory.

Pittsburgh – For the first time in 12 seasons, Notre Dame is one of 16 teams left in the NCAA tournament.

Three-pointers by Pat Connaughton and Steve Vasturia, and a driving layup by Jerian Grant were the key plays in overtime as Notre Dame offset the strong inside presence of Butler’s big men to claim a 67-64 victory.

It’s Notre Dame’s first trip to the Sweet 16 since 2003. The victory is Notre Dame’s seventh in a row, it’s longest run into the post-season since 1987. The win also snapped a six-game losing streak to Butler, which dated back to 1990.

Vasturia finished with 20 points while Grant had 16 and Demetrius Jackson had 13.

Notre Dame answered an 11-0 Butler run midway through the second half by coming up with their own 8-0 run. A frantic finished saw the teams exchange leads and remain tied in the final minute. The Irish overcame three turnovers in the final two minutes. A blocked shot by Connaughton sent it into overtime.

The Irish never trailed in overtime. Vasturia’s two free throws put the Irish on top six seconds in. Connaughton’s three-pointer from the corner with 3:08 left in overtime gave the Irish a lead they would not relinquish.

By winning the first two games of the NCAA tournament, the Irish equaled their number of wins in post-season play over the previous 11 seasons combined.

Bruising Roosevelt Jones led all scorers with 23 points on 9-of-19 shooting. He was a big part of the Butler brigade – which also included Andrew Chrabascz, who finished with 20 points – -- that riddled the Notre Dame interior.

But the Irish eventually overcame it to claim the victory, sending them on to Cleveland for the Sweet 16, where they are expected to meet Kansas.

Notre Dame built a 22-12 lead with less than eight minutes in the first half, but the Bulldogs out-scored the Irish 17-9 the rest of the way to pull within two (31-29) at the break.

The Irish built their lead by getting out in transition with V.J. Beachem coming off the bench for two quick buckets. Steve Vasturia tossed in 11 first-half points on 4-of-6 shooting.

The Bulldogs stayed with their game plan and kept feeding the ball inside to Jones, who scored more than half (15) of Butler’s first-half points. Twenty of Butler’s 29 first-half points came in the paint.

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