INDIANAPOLIS, IN – After a win in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, the #24/23 Butler Bulldogs couldn’t escape an overtime thriller against the #8/8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. Butler rallied from a 10-point deficit in the first half and grabbed a six-point lead in the second half in its battle with Notre Dame, but a couple of key baskets in overtime helped lift third-seeded Fighting Irish past the sixth-seeded Bulldogs, 67-64, at the CONSOL Energy Center. The tough loss left the Bulldogs with a final 23-11 record.
Butler handed the Fighting Irish all they could handle for 40 minutes of regulation play, and the two teams went into an extra period tied at 55-55. Two big three-point field goals in the overtime period helped lead Notre Dame to its 31st win this season.
“Obviously this is a tough one for us, a disappointing loss,” said Butler head coach Chris Holtmann after the game. “Give Notre Dame a lot of credit. They were obviously hard to play against. We had the game where we wanted it, we just weren’t able to make enough plays there late.”
The Fighting Irish (31-5) broke a 59-59 tie in overtime on a three-point field goal from the corner by Pat Connaughton. After Butler battled back and cut the margin to one, 62-61, with just under two minutes remaining, Steve Vasturia nailed another three-pointer for the Irish. That one proved decisive. Butler picked up a free throw and the two teams traded baskets for the final score.
The outcome spoiled a gritty effort by Butler’s starting lineup. All five Butler starters played at least 40 minutes in the game, with senior forward Kameron Woods going the distance and playing all 45 minutes. He finished with a game-high 15 rebounds and closed his career in second place on Butler’s all-time rebounding list with 956 career caroms.
Junior guard Roosevelt Jones, who was helped off the court two nights earlier with a sprained left knee, played 44 minutes and finished with a game-high 23 points. He also had five rebounds, three assists and two steals, while turning in another strong defensive performance.
Sophomore forward Andrew Chrabascz was on the floor for a career-high 41 minutes, and he finished with 20 points, including 8-of-8 from the free throw line. Junior guard Kellen Dunham played 41 minutes and finished with eight points, while senior guard Alex Barlow logged 2 points in 40 minutes before fouling out in the overtime period.
Notre Dame used an 8-0 run midway through the first half to turn a close game into a 22-12 advantage, but the Bulldogs fought back and eventually tied the game at 27-27 on a lay-up by Jones. A free throw by Zach Aguste and a three-point field goal by Vasturia gave the Fighting Irish a four-point advantage, before Jones hit a pair of free throws to make the halftime score, 31-29.
The ACC champs stretched their lead to 37-31 in the second half, before Butler rallied with a 16-4 run to grab a 47-41 advantage. Notre Dame battled back and tied the game at 47-47. Dunham hit a three-point field goal with 2:58 left in the game to tie the score at 55-55, and both teams went scoreless the rest of the way.
Butler had a final possession with 21 seconds left and wound up attempting three shots in the final five seconds, but came up empty. Jones missed a lay-up with five ticks on the clock, and after a turnover by Notre Dame, the Bulldogs got another chance with two second remaining. That attempt ended with Connaughton blocking a shot by Dunham out of bounds with 0:00.6 left. Butler attempted a lob pass to Woods, but his shot came up short.
Butler shot 33.3% (21-63) from the field, including a 30.8% (4-13) performance from the three-point line. Notre Dame finished 43.1% (22-51) from the filed and connected on 6-20 (30%) from three. Butler forced 13 Notre Dame turnovers and gave up only 7. The Bulldogs were out-rebounded, 40-36, but scored more points in the paint, 32-24. The Bulldogs managed a better performance from the charity stripe, 85.7% (18-21) to 77.3% (17-22).
The loss ended a season that saw the Bulldogs match the 11th-highest single season win total in school history, finish in a tie for second place in the BIG EAST Conference and earn a “Top 25” national ranking. Butler reached the NCAA Tournament for the 13th time and posted a tournament win for the ninth time. Holtmann became just the third coach in Butler history to lead the Bulldogs to the national tournament in his first season.
“I’ve said it for the past couple of weeks, there’s not a group that I wanted to do this with more than this group,” said Holtmann. “We certainly hope that those who have played for, coached or been a part of Butler, we hope that they have taken great pride in the way we’ve gone about things this year. I think (our players) have played with resiliency and a toughness that hopefully represents or certainly has represented our program.”
Chris Fultz is a senior writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.
Chris Fultz is a Senior Writer and the Butler Athletics beat writer for the Indiana Sports Report. Chris Fultz is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler University Athletics and has full media access.
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