KYLE BEERY | SPORTS EDITOR
It’s mid-March, which can only mean one thing. Madness.
On a day that saw two No. 14-seeds beat No. 3-seeds and a No. 11-seed take down a No. 6-seed, the six-seeded Butler men’s basketball team came out on the right end of a close game with the University of Texas Longhorns.
Butler (23-10) topped the Longhorns (20-14) 56-48 in the Round of 64 Thursday at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to set up a meeting with in-state rival Notre Dame Saturday night in the Round of 32.
The Bulldogs pulled away from the Longhorns down the stretch, outscoring them 12-2 over the final 1:59 of the game.
Sophomore Isaiah Taylor hit a jump shot to pull Texas within a point at 44-43, but the Bulldogs were able to outlast the Longhorns down the stretch.
Junior Kellen Dunham led the Bulldogs with a game-high 20 points, including a three-pointer with 1:20 to play.
Free throws came in handy for the Bulldogs, going 8-for-10 in the final minutes. They were 20-for-28 on the day.
Thursday’s win pushed Butler’s record to 7-0 all-time against teams with a lower seed.
Jonathon Holmes led the Longhorns with 15 points, while Isaiah Taylor chipped in 14.
Texas out-rebounded Butler 41-28, and had a better shooting percentage, Butler was able to force 15 Longhorn turnovers, while only committing five of its own.
Grind it out
This was considered to be a tough matchup for the Bulldogs because of Texas’s size, possibly pitting Butler as an underdog.
“Someone told me the other day that we don’t have one national media person picking us to win the game,” Butler head coach Chris Holtmann said Monday. “And that’s kind of in some ways what we’ve been used to this year. Our deal is just to kind of continue to do what we do, try to make it a grind-it-out game, and be ready to stay locked in on every possession.”
And the game was exactly that — a grind-it-out game.
Butler went without a field goal for more than nine minutes, from the 4:28 mark in the first half to the 13:47 mark in the second half.
Butler weathered the storm, as they played without standout junior Roosevelt Jones for eight and a half minutes in the second half. Jones exited the game with an apparent leg injury, falling to the ground on his way to the locker room with trainers.
He scored just two points after returning to the game, finishing with six on the day. Kelan Martin filled in for Jones during the time he was out, scoring five of his seven points, including an old-fashioned three-point play during an 11-0 Butler run.
Senior Kameron Woods had nine points and nine rebounds. Many expected the 6-foot-9, 200-pound senior to struggle with the big Longhorns, but his nine boards were crucial for the Bulldogs.
6-foot-9, 285-pound Cameron Ridley was held to just two points for the Longhorns.
In-state foes to meet in Pittsburgh
Notre Dame survived an upset scare from No. 14-seed Northeastern University. The Irish won 69-64 after seeing a lead as big as 11 points disappear.
The Huskies cut the deficit to two points with 37 seconds to play, and had the opportunity to tie or take the lead, but turned the ball over with three seconds to go.
The last time the Bulldogs and Irish played was Nov. 13, 2006, a 71-69 win for Butler. The Irish are 40-31 all-time against the Bulldogs.
Senior guard Jerian Grant leads the Irish with 16.8 points per game this season, while senior forward Pat Connaughton gets 12.8 points and 7.4 rebounds per game.
The Irish won the ACC Tournament last weekend and have won six straight games and nine of 10.
Tip-off is set for 9:40 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on TBS.