Costly lane violation thwarts Notre Dame’s comeback bid

If Notre Dame's Jerian Grant caught the highlights of Thursday's game between UNC Asheville and Syracuse, he certainly didn't learn from them.

The sophomore guard committed an identical mistake to the one Bulldogs' guard J.P. Primm made in a crucial moment Thursday, essentially torpedoing Notre Dame's hopes of forcing overtime against 10th-seeded Xavier and advancing to the Round 0f 32.

Notre Dame's Eric Atkins appeared to sink the front end of a 1-and-1 attempt with 2.8 seconds to go and the Irish down two when referees waived off the free throw and called a lane violation on Grant. TV replays showed it was the correct call because Grant left his position behind the 3-point arc too early, running in for a rebound before the ball hit the rim.

"You always hear that you never — you can't call that at the end of a game or it's just let the kids play the game out," Grant said. "And it hurts to lose on a call that — I mean, we didn't lose on that call, but it hurts to end the game like that."

Whether you agree the call should have been made likely depends on how you think referees should call the final seconds of a close game.

Those who want a game called the same way throughout will applaud the refs for making the correct call no matter the implications. Those who'd prefer to see referees make a game-changing call only when egregiously necessary will bemoan that the lane violation on a made free throw needlessly robbed the players of the chance to determine the outcome of the game.

The call was particularly significant because of the potential for the winner of Friday's game to make a substantial NCAA tournament run. As a result of second-seeded Duke's stunning loss earlier in the day, either the Irish or the Musketeers needed only to beat 15th-seeded Lehigh to advance to the Sweet 16.

Of course, Grant's lane violation wasn't the only costly mistake the Irish made.

Notre Dame led 48-38 on Atkins' 3-pointer with 12:20 left, but Xavier responded with a 9-0 run to tighten the gap again. Xavier guard Tu Holloway eventually gave the Musketeers the lead for good on a high-arcing floater over Jack Cooley's outstretched hands with 21.3 seconds to go. And after Grant's lane violation, Pat Connaughton was called for an intentional foul when he grabbed an Xavier player's jersey well before the ball was in-bounded.

Regardless, it will be Grant's lane violation that is debated long after the rest of those details are forgotten. The only good news is Grant is just a sophomore, so he has plenty of opportunities to make up for it.

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