Butler snips Seminoles in semifinals

Butler will face Washington State tonight in the final of the Diamond Head Classic. The Christmas showdown in Honolulu came to be after the Cougars (10-1) defeated No. 15 Baylor and the Bulldogs (8-4, 1-0 HL) won a close one against Florida State.

Butler’s fourth consecutive win came in a 67-64 win against the Seminoles, who were 10-2 going into the game and had an advantage in height and length.

That size advantage led to Butler getting outrebounded 38-25, but despite being outrebounded, Butler was able to build a comfortable lead in the second half and make late free throws to secure the three-point win.

Junior guard Shelvin Mack was mostly to thank for that lead, as he scored all of his 17 points after halftime. Mack converted on four 3-pointers and five-of-six free throws.

But Mack did more than just score points. He facilitated on both ends of the court, leading all players with five assists and also three steals.

Had it not been for Mack and Butler’s 18-for-23 free throw shooting, Florida State might have been the team to face Washington State in the finals.

Butler had a 52-39 lead with six and a half minutes remaining. Then, Florida State standout Chris Singleton turned up his game and scored 10 points in five minutes.

Butler was able to keep the spark from turning into wildfire, though.  Florida State was never able to get closer than four away until their final 3-pointer at the buzzer because the Bulldogs made eight-of-10 free throws in the final 60 seconds.

Senior forward Matt Howard led the Bulldogs in scoring with 19 and snagged nine rebounds in 37 minutes on the court. Howard also made his first two attempted 3-pointers, which he has been able to shoot more of thanks to the increased minutes of sophomore center Andrew Smith and junior forward Garrett Butcher.

And sophomore guard Chase Stigall brought production off the bench, scoring 11 points in twice as many minutes. Stigall was efficient in using that time, going four-for-six from the floor including three-of-five from behind the arc.

The game against Washington State will be televised on ESPN2 at 9:30 EDT.