Brey coaches Fighting Irish following his mother’s death

Published 1:59 am Monday, March 23, 2015

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Notre Dame coach Mike Brey guided the Irish to a thrilling 67-64 overtime win against Butler in the NCAA Tournament on Saturday night after losing his mother to a heart attack at 84.

Betty Brey, an Olympic swimmer and one of Brey’s biggest influences, passed away early Saturday in Florida. Brey admitted it still hadn’t registered, but he felt her presence as the final seconds ticked down in the game.

“I think she was definitely with us down the stretch,” Brey said.

Jerian Grant scored 16 points for Notre Dame, including the clinching layup with 18 seconds left, and the Irish (31-5) moved on to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2003. They will play Kansas or Wichita State in the Midwest Regional semifinals on Thursday in Cleveland.

Steve Vasturia led Notre Dame with 20 points. Demetrius Jackson added 13 points, and Zach Auguste had seven points and 13 rebounds for the Irish, who beat the Bulldogs for the first time in 26 years.

Roosevelt Jones played through an injured left knee while scoring 23 points for Butler (23-11), but another NCAA run ended abruptly in the extra session.

The Bulldogs had two chances to win it in regulation. Notre Dame’s Pat Connaughton slammed Dunham’s shot from the corner into the ground and senior center Kameron Woods couldn’t convert an out of bounds alley-oop at the buzzer.

The Irish never trailed in overtime. 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.”

He was right. Kellen Dunham got the Bulldogs within a point with two free throws, but the Irish drilled their sixth — and last — 3-pointer of the game when Vasturia knocked down a shot from the same spot as Connaughton.

Grant, a senior who missed most of the 2013-14 season due to an academic issue, then split the defense and laid it in with the shot clock ticking down as the Irish matched their deepest run under Brey.