NEW YORK — Notre Dame and Stephen F. Austin went shot-for-shot in an NCAA Tournament game that was about as good as it gets. The power school against the unflinching underdog. The lead never was more than seven for either team.
That it came down to the last shot was no surprise. The hero, though, might have been the most unlikely player on the floor to make a winner.
Rex Pflueger tapped in a rebound with 1.5 seconds left and Notre Dame survived 14th-seeded Stephen F. Austin 76-75 on Sunday to reach the NCAA round of 16 for the second consecutive season.
Down one with 17.5 seconds left, No. 6 seed Notre Dame grabbed an SFA rebound and put the ball in the hands of Demetrius Jackson. The point guard drove to the basket and missed. Zach Auguste followed for the Irish (23-11) but could not convert. The ball slipped off the rim and with one hand Pflueger flipped it in.
Not only had Pflueger not scored in the game to that point, he hadn't had a field goal since March 5.
"I just crashed the board," Pflueger said. "I thought Zach was going to make that last layup, but coach always emphasizes going to the board hard, especially in situations like that, and it just turned out for the best for us."
A long heave from Stephen F. Austin (28-6) went wide and Notre Dame swarmed Pflueger.
Thomas Walkup, the hero of Stephen F. Austin's first-round upset of No. 3 seed West Virginia, scored 21 in his last college game.
"It's something I've been afraid of for a while," Walkup said of his SFA career ending. "It hurts."
The loss snapped the Lumberjacks' 21-game winning streak, the longest in the country, in their third straight NCAA appearance as Southland Conference champions.
Wisconsin 66, Xavier 63: Bronson Koenig hit two 3-pointers in the closing seconds, the last as the buzzer sounded, as the Badgers (22-12) pulled off the upset in St. Louis.
The talented sharpshooter who failed to hit from beyond the arc in a first-round win over Pittsburgh connected from well beyond the 3-point line to tie it at 63 with 11.7 seconds left.
Edmond Sumner brought the ball up court for Xavier (28-6) then drove to the basket, running over the Badgers' Zak Showalter and getting called for an offensive foul with 4.3 seconds to go. Wisconsin called timeout and coach Greg Gard drew up a play for his best outside shooter.