Kentucky holds off Notre Dame, 68-66, reaches Final Four

Kentucky holds off Notre Dame, 68-66, reaches Final Four
Kentucky guard Aaron Harrison leaps above teammates Karl-Anthony Towns (12) and Tyler Ulis (3) as they celebrate their 68-66 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA Midwest Regional final on Saturday. (Gregory Shamus / Getty Images)

They didn't want to leave the court.

After Jerian Grant airballed Notre Dame's last gasp at history and the buzzer sounded, the five players who were on the court for the Irish stood motionless, at once stunned the game was over and hoping there might be, somehow, some time left on the clock.


But the clock showed zeroes. The Irish's time to score one of the all-time upsets in college basketball had run out.

Kentucky stayed unbeaten with a 68-66 victory over Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament's Midwest Regional final.

The Irish had come so close to the biggest win in the school's history and nearly scored the biggest shocker in a program known for pulling off major upsets.

"I don't know if it will sink in," Coach Mike Brey said.

Top-seeded Kentucky (37-0) may win the national championship, and the Irish (32-6) were the first team in the tournament to make the Wildcats sweat.

"Just to be so close to making history, from doing something so special and just like that it's over … it's tough," Grant said. "I just really want to be able to keep playing with these guys."

Guard Andrew Harrison made two free throws with six seconds remaining to end a 66-66 tie before Grant dribbled the length of the court and missed his last-second shot from three-point range.

Junior Zach Auguste picked a good time to have his best game for Notre Dame, which led by six points with 6 minutes 14 seconds to play. He scored 20 points on 10-for-13 shooting.

But the Irish couldn't execute when they needed to the most.

"Their length at times shrinks the court and it just makes it a little difficult, and it did there a couple possessions at the end of the game," Brey said.

Grant, who made a shot-clock beating three-point basket for Notre Dame's last basket, settled for stepback jumpers on successive Irish possessions. All except for the three-pointer came up empty and the Irish failed to score in the final 2:35.

Grant scored 15 points on four-for014 shooting and had six assists in his final game for the Irish.

"I really feel like I got the looks I've been getting all year and knocking down, but they didn't go in tonight," Grant said. "We probably could've run some different types of offense, but we ran an isolation play I didn't knock it down."

Fellow senior Pat Connaughton departs after scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds.


"Everyone on this team put in everything they had," Connaughton said. "That's something that showed on the floor. The ball bounces one way or the other the outcome might be different. But they're a great team, that's been obvious all season and I'm glad we were able to go toe-to-toe with them."

Kentucky, however, took the final steps behind Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 25 points.

Notre Dame will have to live with what it accomplished this season and that is nothing to blanch at — an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament championship, the first in conference tournament title in Notre Dame history and the school's first Elite Eight appearance since 1979.

"We put Notre Dame basketball on the map," Connaughton said.

But the Irish's course stopped short of the ultimate treasure.