Butler set for Hoosier showdown with Notre Dame; Nova romps
It was getting another game at the Consol Center that was the hard part for N.C. State and Notre Dame.
Butler got by on Thursday like it always does in March. And Villanova? Well, beware a top-seeded Wildcats team that romped their way toward a blowout win against Lafayette and showed President Barack Obama might have a future as a full-fledged bracketologist.
''They were very scary on film,'' Lafayette coach Fran O'Hanlon said.
It was a true horror show for the Leopards in real life as they lost 93-52.
Dylan Ennis scored 16 points and helped Villanova (33-2) win its 16th straight game. The Wildcats shot close to 70 percent for most of the game and led by as many as 45 points. They made 11 of 22 from 3-point range and shot 63 percent overall from the floor.
''I could tell our guys were fired up for this game because it was the NCAA Tournament,'' coach Jay Wright said. ''They weren't thinking seed. They weren't thinking we could be the first 1-16 to (lose). They don't think about that stuff. Coaches do.''
He had no reason to worry in Pittsburgh.
Dan Trist led the Patriot League champion Leopards (20-13) with 18 points. The Leopards missed 14 of 18 3s.
The Leopards seemingly would have had to make all their shots to keep pace with the Big East champion Wildcats.
''I think playing the No. 2 team in the nation, we were a little nervous,'' forward Seth Hinrichs said.
The Leopards never had a chance to settle their nerves. Villanova used a 13-0 run to lead 34-13. When Big East co-player of the year Ryan Arcidiacono hit a 3 early in the second half for a 58-30 lead, Villanova was shooting 67 percent (24 of 34) and 54 percent on 3s (7 of 13).
That's how No. 1 seeds make statements.
Here's how the rest of the tournament shaped up on Thursday at the Consol Center.
IRISH EYES: Zach Auguste scored 25 points, Jerian Grant added 17 and Notre Dame dodged a scare with a 69-65 win over Northeastern. The third-seeded Irish (30-5) returned to the tournament after a one-year absence determined to build off their ACC Tournament title and make a Final Four run.
The Huskies (23-12) chased down the loose ball after an inbounds pass was wildly thrown away by the Irish. 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 - and ended the Huskies' last-gasp effort at pulling off the shocker.
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.
BUTLER BALL: Indiana hoops fans may stuff local sports bar Plump's Last Shot and watch some Hoosier vs. Hoosier action. The Bulldogs may not be Indiana's school - that title still belongs to the Hoosiers - but making back-to-back national title games earned them some serious cred.
The Bulldogs (23-10) advanced to play third-seeded Notre Dame despite going more than 10 minutes without making a shot and draining all of five field goals in the second half.
''I say there's not a group I'd rather do this with, this journey, this season, than with this group,'' Butler coach Christ Holtmann said. ''They have embraced, certainly, this whole dynamic, this new dynamic for them.''
COMEBACK! BeeJay Anya's hook shot rolled around and in with a second to play, lifting North Carolina State to a stunning 66-65 victory over LSU. The eighth-seeded Wolfpack (21-13) trailed by as much as 16.
''I don't take that many shots during the game, so I try and contribute other ways,'' Anya said. ''I just saw an opportunity for me to score and I took it.''
LSU (22-11) missed its last 12 field goals and six crucial free throws in the final 4 minutes in another late-game collapse. A week after falling to Auburn in the Southeastern Conference tournament, the Tigers' breakout season under third-year coach Johnny Jones ended with a thud.