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Big East Semifinals

The bank was open until nearly midnight at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night. Da’Sean Butler took an inbound pass with three seconds left, dribbled to his left and faded away before burying a game-winning trey with Cincinnati’s Lance Stephenson all up in his grill. Butler’s shot got backboard first, then nets to lift West Va. to a 54-51 win in the nightcap game of the Big East Tournament quarterfinals.

The Mountaineers advanced to tonight’s semifinals to face Notre Dame. They led Cincy for 39 minutes and 54 seconds, but it appeared the Bearcats might pull out a nail-biter for a third straight night in the final minute. Stephenson, the freshman back at home in New York, had carried Mick Cronin’s team back into the game in the final minutes. He scored on a variety of drives to the rim and a dead-on 3 that tied the game at 51-51.

After an ugly possession by WVU, Cincy had the ball on the far baseline with six ticks left. However, sophomore Dion Dixon lost control of his dribble and eventually lost the ball out of bounds. (Am I the only one that wanted to see a replay from a different angle because official Jim Burr clearly got baited into the call by Bob Huggins and didn’t see whether the ball went off Dixon’s leg or not?)

The underdogs had been barking at MSG all day and night. Georgetown started the day by beating Syracuse 91-84 as a six-point underdog. Chris Wright scored a game-high 27 points for the Hoyas, who closed at plus-220 for money-line plays (paid $220 on $100 bets).

In the other day game, Marquette sent Villanova home early thanks to the heroics of Lazar Hayward, who scored 20 points and hit a monster trey at crunch time to propel his team to an 80-76 win. The Golden Eagles won outright as five-point underdogs to hook up money-line backers with a plus-180 payout (paid $180 on $100 wagers).

Notre Dame stayed hot by beating Pittsburgh 50-45 for its sixth straight win. The Irish have covered the number in seven straight outings after beating the Panthers as two-point puppies. Even better, the parlay combination of Notre Dame and the ‘under’ has been good in its last six assignments.

Luke Harangody and Tory Jackson scored 12 points apiece for the winners. ‘Gody’s free throws in the final seconds put the game on ice.

The Irish move on to face Bob Huggins’ bunch. There was no overight line for this contest. Mike Brey’s team knocked off the Mountaineers 70-68 as a 4 ½-point home underdog way back on Jan. 9.

The Notre Dame defense stymied Butler into a miserable 4-for-20 shooting performance at the Joyce Center. Harangody scored 24 points on the ‘Neers, while Ben Hansbrough had six points, nine rebounds and 10 assists.

As for Georgetown-Marquette, most books had the Hoyas as three-point ‘chalk’ as of early this morning. The total was in the 130-131 range. These schools met back on Jan. 6 in Milwaukee, where the Golden Eagles collected a 62-59 win as 1 ½-point home favorites.

The underdogs went 3-1 straight up and 4-0 ATS in the Big East quarterfinals. The 'over' hit in the two early games, but the night games saw the 'under' prevail twice.

ESPN will have television coverage of tonight's Big East doubleheader at 7:00 p.m. Eastern.

Friday Morning Update: LVSC opened WVU as a 4 1/2-point favorite vs. Notre Dame with a total of 130. As of 11:30 a.m. ET., most spots had the Mountaineers listed as five-point 'chalk' with a 129-point tally. Bettors can take the Irish on the money line for a plus-170 return (risk $100 to win $170).

Brian Edwards can be reached at

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