Butler, No. 7 West Virginia survive Notre Dame
NEW YORK: Da'Sean Butler, West Virginia's last-second hero in the quarterfinals, scored 24 points to lead the seventh-ranked Mountaineers to a 53-51 victory over Notre Dame on Friday night in the Big East tournament semifinals.
Third-seeded West Virginia (26-6) will face eighth-seeded Georgetown in the championship game Saturday night. The Mountaineers are looking for their first title; the Hoyas a record eighth.
Butler banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer Thursday for a 54-51 victory over Cincinnati.
The Fighting Irish (23-11) had the chance to win it Friday. Tory Jackson missed a 3 with 4 seconds left. Notre Dame's Tyrone Nash came up with the rebound, but Wellington Smith stripped it from him just as the buzzer sounded.
The Mountaineers have won five straight and seven of eight.
Ben Hansbrough had 17 points for the Fighting Irish, who had won six straight.
Even though the game was played at Notre Dame's new slower pace that had led it to its recent winning streak, West Virginia went up 36-36 with 5:22 to play on a free throw by Smith.
Tim Abromaitis and Hansbrough then combined for nine points in an 11-2 run that saw the Fighting Irish pull within 48-47 with 2:58 left.
Butler then was responsible for the rest of the Mountaineers' points. He had an assist on Joe Mazzula's layup with 2:40 left and his bounce pass found Kevin Jones, who was fouled with 1:56 left and made two free throws.
Hansbrough scored on a reverse that brought Notre Dame within 52-49 with 1:35 to go.
Butler made one of two free throws with 1:02 left and Hansbrough made two foul shots with 47 seconds left to make it 53-51.
After a timeout, West Virginia got the ball to Butler but his 3-point attempt with 12 seconds left bounced off the rim.
Jackson came down and missed his 3, Smith made the big strip and West Virginia was in the title game for the second time, having lost to Syracuse in 2005.
Jones had 10 points for West Virginia, which beat Georgetown 81-68 on March 1 in the teams' only meeting.
Luke Harangody had 10 points for Notre Dame, which has lost in all three of its semifinal appearances.
Notre Dame averaged 59 points in its two Big East tournament wins, almost 18 points lower than its season average. The Fighting Irish struggled against the Mountaineers' 1-3-1 zone, finishing at 34.1 percent (15 of 44).
West Virginia advanced despite shooting just 3 of 19 from 3-point range, but the Mountaineers did have a 37-22 rebound advantage.