Midwest Region: Notre Dame dodges early exit
Pittsburgh — Out of timeouts, Northeastern passed the ball five times on its final game-tying possession. Zach Stahl frantically waved his arms when he fought his way open under the basket, yet no teammate saw him.
Quincy Ford coughed up the ball one final time — and ended the Huskies' last-gasp effort at pulling off the shocker.
Zach Auguste scored 25 points, Jerian Grant added 17 and Notre Dame dodged a threat trying to erase its futile NCAA Tournament history with a 69-65 win over Northeastern on Thursday.
"I didn't think there was any fear factor going into the game," Northeastern coach Bill Coen said.
No fear, just a giant scare.
The third-seeded Irish were fortunate to even win by 4. The Irish returned to the tournament after a one-year absence determined to build off their ACC Tournament title and make a Final Four run in March.
The Colonial Athletic Association champion Huskies played with the 40 minutes of grit needed to avoid a crushing defeat like so many other double-digit seeds throughout tournament history.
But the Huskies finally collapsed with sloppy play over the final minutes that ended the upset bid.
The final possession was the costliest one. After the Huskies fumbled the ball, Auguste, who made 10 of 14 shots, sealed it with two free throws.
"The clutchest free throws of his career," Notre Dame forward Pat Connaughton said.
The Huskies are left wondering if they could have won had they not burned their timeouts.
"It would have helped if we would have had one more timeout," forward Scott Eatherton said. "I think we could have really got a play in. I'm not really sure what happened at the very end."
The Fighting Irish (30-5) will play the winner of Texas-Butler on Saturday.
"I told them in the locker room, we weren't going to beat them by 15," coach Mike Brey said. "So don't anybody walk out of here feeling we should have won by 15."
The Irish have traditionally struggled in the tournament under Brey. They made only one Sweet 16 since 2001.
Northeastern (23-12) gave the Irish fits and threatened to keep Notre Dame's March malaise going. Eatherton had 18 points and David Walker had 15.
All those fans that love rooting for the double-digit seeds to play spoiler in March had to be rooting for Northeastern. But the Huskies were sloppy late, finishing with 16 turnovers. The Irish made only seven.
Eatherton was in a perfect spot on the block and put back a missed 3 to make it 67-65 with 32.5 seconds left. Even with foul trouble, he came up big down the stretch for the Huskies. Eatherton pushed forward with four fouls and his layup at the 2-minute mark made it 65-61, inching the Huskies closer to their first NCAA Tournament win in more than 30 years.
Grant, though, picked Ford clean and went all the way for a dunk that made it 67-61.
But each time the Huskies got close, they couldn't finish. They failed in a great shot at taking the lead midway through the second half when they missed two easy taps at the basket trailing by nine. Grant grabbed the loose ball, went around his back and midcourt and dished to Auguste for a thunderous baseline dunk that brought the Notre Dame fans to their feet.
Northeastern was fired up from tip as it chased a small slice of March history. Walker pounded his chest in exultation after his 3 on the second possession and the Huskies never let Notre Dame's lead grow to more than five points.
Walker's second 3 of the half evened the score at 18-all and the Huskies positioned for a 14 seed to win a game for the third straight season. The Irish finally snapped out of their first-half funk and ended the half on a 9-3 run to head into halftime with a 31-27 lead.
Cincinnati 66, Purdue 65: In Louisville, Kentucky, Troy Caupain got Cincinnati to overtime with his buzzer-beating layup, then Coreontae DeBerry helped the eighth-seeded Bearcats beat Purdue in their opening game in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bearcats trailed by seven with 48.5 seconds left in regulation and forced overtime with a 10-3 run. Caupain's driving layup banked off the glass, rolled around and hit the glass again — staying on the back rim for a moment — before falling through. That sent the Bearcats celebrating while officials reviewed the play to make sure Caupain did beat the buzzer.
In overtime, DeBerry scored four of his 13 points helping Cincinnati take a lead it wouldn't lose again as the Bearcats outscored Purdue 7-6 in the extra time.
Vince Edwards' would-be tying 3 hit off the rim at the buzzer for the Boilermakers (21-13).
The Bearcats (23-10) will play either No. 1 Kentucky or Hampton on Saturday in the Midwest Region. Farad Cobb led Cincinnati with 14 points.
Cincinnati won for the sixth time in seven games and also won their NCAA opener for the first time since 2012 after Purdue failed to put away the game leading 59-46 on a pair of free throws by Jon Octeus.
Butler 56, Texas 48: In Pittsburgh, Kellen Dunham scored 20 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer with 1:18 to play, to lift sixth-seeded Butler over 11th-seeded Texas.
The Bulldogs (23-10) advanced to play third-seeded Notre Dame on Saturday. The Longhorns (20-14) added to a miserable day for the vaunted Big 12. Texas joined Baylor and Iowa State, both No. 3 seeds, as early tournament exits after struggling all afternoon to find any rhythm, a microcosm of another disappointing season.
Jonathan Holmes led the Longhorns with 15 points and Isaiah Taylor added 14 but Texas shot just 34 percent from the field and turned it over 15 times while failing to make it beyond the first weekend of the NCAAs for the seventh straight year.
No. 1 Kentucky 79, Hampton 56: At Louisville, Kentucky, Karl-Anthony Towns bounced back from a mini-slump with 21 points and 11 rebounds, Andrew Harrison added 14 points and Kentucky rolled in its Tournament opener.
Limited by foul trouble the past two games, the 6-foot-11 Towns was forceful all night in helping the unbeaten Wildcats (35-0) roll to the site's most lopsided outcome of the day after three one-point finishes.
Trey Lyles added 10 points and six rebounds, Tyler Ulis scored 11 and Willie Cauley-Stein grabbed 11 rebounds for the Wildcats, who face Cincinnati on Saturday.
Hampton's Quinton Chievous shook off an ankle injury sustained in Tuesday's First Four upset of Manhattan to score 22 points with 10 rebounds, but the Pirates (17-18) were no match for Kentucky after the first 10 minutes and trailed by as many as 35 with 12:43 left.