NC State shocks Villanova; Notre Dame wins with heavy heart
Mar. 22, 2015
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Thirty years after its improbable national championship, Villanova was on the wrong side of a massive March upset.
North Carolina State, a program that authored one of the early chapters on March shockers, can add another stunner to the list: The Wolfpack are back in the Sweet 16.
The Wolfpack ended one season and busted millions of brackets — including one with a White House address.
N.C. State's Cat Barber was busted in an unguarded moment directing a cutting remark at President Barack Obama.
Barber was caught by TV cameras saying "What ... (is) wrong with Barack Obama" to his teammates in the locker room.
Obama had picked Villanova to reach the NCAA Tournament championship game. But the Wolfpack busted his bracket and countless others with a 71-68 win over the Wildcats on Saturday night.
Obama correctly guessed that Villanova and N.C. State would each win its first tournament game. He picked Kentucky to win it all.
The Wolfpack will play Louisville or Northern Iowa in the East Regional semifinals on Friday in Syracuse, New York.
Barber tweeted later in the night that his comment was all in good fun.
"Good team win tonight and Yall know I loveeee Obama HONEST!!" he wrote.
The Wildcats (33-3) saw a 16-game winning streak end and have not reached the second weekend since 2009.
The Wildcats — who the national championship in 1985 as the No. 8 seed — came up empty after storming their way to pair of Big East titles and a 41-point victory in the NCAA Tournament opener.
"I know we have to answer to the fact that we did not get to the second weekend again," coach Jay Wright said. "We have to own that. But it's not going to define us within our program. It's going to define us outside of our program and we accept that."
N.C. State was back in the Sweet 16 for only the third time since 1989 (2012, 2005). The Wolfpack hadn't defeated a top seed since that memorable night in 1983 when they upset Houston.
Wins this season over Duke, North Carolina and Louisville in ACC play let them know they could knock off the elite. When it mattered most, they pulled off their signature win under coach Mark Gottfried.
"We respect Villanova, but we've seen good teams," Gottfried said. "We've seen a lot of them in our conference. You see them about every night. So a league like that prepares you for games like tonight."
Gottfried also has a knack for pulling off March upsets — he led eighth-seeded Alabama to a win over No. 1 Stanford in the second round of the 2004 tournament.
In the second game, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey guided the Irish to a thrilling 67-64 overtime win against Butler after losing his mother to a heart attack at 84.
Betty Brey, an Olympic swimmer and one of Brey's biggest influences, died early Saturday in Florida.
Jerian Grant scored 16 points for Notre Dame, including the clinching layup with 18 seconds left to put an abrupt end to Butler's latest NCAA Tournament run.
Brey called his mother, a member of the 1956 U.S. Olympic team and later a swim coach at George Washington University, "an unbelievable woman, a woman ahead of her time and probably the real driving force behind everything I've done."
Including leading Notre Dame to its deepest tournament run in a dozen years. They will play Kansas or Wichita State in the Midwest Regional semifinals on Thursday in Cleveland.
Here are some other notes from Saturday's games at the Consol Center:
MR. JONES: Roosevelt Jones played through an injured left knee while scoring 23 points for Butler. Jones said he would have to be "tackled" to be kept out of the game. He made 9 of 19 shots while playing 44 of the game's 45 minutes.
NOVA WOES: Darrun Hilliard scored 27 points and gamely rallied the Wildcats in the final minutes. He hit 3-pointers that brought them to within four, within two with 41.1 seconds left and 69-68 with 1.2 seconds left. JayVaughn Pinkston scored 13 and was the only other Wildcat to crack double digits. Four players averaged double digits in the regular season. In the first half, the Wildcats missed a whopping 20 of 28 field goals. They shot 31 percent (19 of 61) overall from the floor.
CONNAUGHTON'S CHOICE: Notre Dame's Pat Connaughton snapped a 59-all tie with a 3-pointer from the right corner. The senior captain — who has delayed a lucrative baseball career for one last go-round at Notre Dame — then shook his head as he raced back down the floor and said "They're not gonna stop us." Connaughton played in his school-record 137th game, breaking a mark he shared with former point guard Tory Jackson.