By Andrew Kahn
In the closing minutes of overtime, Notre Dame had the ball with a one-point lead over Butler and the shot clock winding down. A possession that looked like it might be going nowhere ended up with Jerian Grant driving to his right, into the paint. Steve Vasturia was set up on the right wing, but as Grant made his move, he shuffled to the corner to get in his teammate’s field of vision and receive a pass. His three-point shot cut through the net as the shot clock expired, giving the Irish a 65-61 lead with 1:25 left, his final points of a team-high 20. Notre Dame would win 67-64 to advance to the Sweet 16.
Vasturia, who played his high school ball at St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, has started every game for Notre Dame this season after starting 12 last year. His numbers have improved across the board from his freshman season. He’s shooting 49 percent from the field and 41 percent from three and averaging 9.8 points, three rebounds, and nearly two assists. He’s hit big shots all season, including the one against Butler on Saturday in the Round of 32.
He finished that game 6 of 11 shooting and hit all six of his free throw attempts. He showed off his outside shooting ability but also finished strong at the rim in the half court and in transition. “I think in this offense, the way we play, we kind of just take what the defense gives us,” Vasturia said in the postgame press conference. “If I see an opening I’m going to try to make it.”
Vasturia has a baby face but an all-around game beyond his years. Notre Dame rotated its defensive assignments against Butler but Vasturia spent much of the game guarding leading scorer Kellen Dunham, who scored 20 in the opener against Texas. Dunham shot just 2 of 13 (both threes) on Saturday and scored only eight points. In Notre Dame’s 69-65 win over Northeastern in the first round, Vasturia attempted only three shots but did record four steals and limited Northeastern’s David Walker. Brey praised Vasturia’s defense after that game. “He’s so smart. His body position is so good. When he was on Walker, then they stalled a little bit more.”
In beating Butler, Notre Dame survived the opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. The 3 seed in the Midwest Region, they’ll face seventh-seeded Wichita State next in what figures to be another close contest. A win would set up a potential matchup with Kentucky for a spot in the Final Four. If the Irish are to continue their run, they’ll need Vasturia to continue playing well on both ends.
Andrew Kahn is a regular contributor to CBS Local who also writes for Newsday and The Wall Street Journal. He writes about college basketball and other sports at AndrewJKahn.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @AndrewKahn.