Nov. 13, 2006
Junior A. J. Graves scored a game-high 28 points, including the game-winner, and senior Julian Betko blocked a last-second field goal attempt to lead Butler to a 71-69 victory over Notre Dame in the first round of the NIT Season Tip-Off at Conseco Fieldhouse on Monday, Nov. 13. The Bulldogs (2-0) will face the winner of the Indiana-Lafayette game on Tuesday for a spot in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Graves lifted the Bulldogs from a six-point deficit in the second half with an inspired long-range shooting display. The 6-1 guard hit six of his career-high eight three-pointers in the final 20 minutes, and none was bigger than his final basket with 1:23 remaining. That long distance shot gave Butler a 71-69 advantage, and the Bulldogs held on for the final 83 seconds.
Notre Dame (1-1) had one final possession to win or tie, but Betko blocked a three-point attempt by Russell Carter and time expired as the ball fell to the floor!
"It was a great basketball game," said an obviously elated Butler head coach Todd Lickliter after the contest. "Our guys have a lot of heart. Notre Dame is a good team. We struggled to stop them, but hats off to our guys."
The biggest hats were worn by Butler's "G-Men," Graves and backcourt running mate Mike Green. The two guard combined for 47 points, 15 assists and three steals. The scored 28 of Butler's 40 second half points!
Graves hit 10 of 20 shots, including eight of 15 from the three-point arc. He missed his career scoring high by a single point. Green chipped in with a double-double, posting 19 points and a career-high 12 assists. His final assist came on the game-winning shot by Graves.\
"(Notre Dame) guarded pretty well," said Green. "I was able to drive and get to the basket and finish. We have a lot of shooters, and it is my job to find shooters."
The two Indiana teams traded leads through much of the first half, until Notre Dame went on a 7-0 run to take a 27-20 lead. Butler the Bulldogs answered by scoring the final 11 points of the first half to take a 31-27 halftime lead.
The Fighting Irish pulled back out to a six-point lead twice in the second half, the final time coming at 52-46 with 12:15 left. But the Bulldogs battled back again, eventually knotting the game at 60-60 on a layup by Betko. Notre Dame took its final lead at 69-68 on a basket by Luke Harangody with 2:00 left, setting the stage for the dramatic shot by Graves.
The win was Butler's sixth in a row over the Fighting Irish, and the Bulldogs' first preseason NIT victory. Butler improved to 3-2 all-time in Conseco Fieldhouse.