Butler, now riding an 11-game winning streak and two wins away from the Final Four, will face No. 4-seeded Wisconsin in the Sweet 16 Thursday in New Orleans after a 71-70 win against Pittsburgh yesterday.
Matt Howard did it again. The ball ended up in his hands, and he found a way to win.
“You win two games by three points—it’s pretty crazy,” said Howard, who also scored a game-winning layup as time expired against Old Dominion.
With the score tied and 0.8 seconds remaining, he was fouled while rebounding a missed Pittsburgh free throw.
Howard hit one free throw, purposefully missed the second off the back rim, and gave a small fist pump as time expired.
The foul by Panther junior forward Nasir Robinson to send Howard to the line might go down as the worst foul in Pittsburgh history, but it followed what could have been the worst in Butler’s history were it not for Howard’s presence of mind.
Junior guard Shelvin Mack fouled redshirt senior Gilbert Brown at midcourt to send the Panther forward, a 78.8 percent free throw shooter, to the line.
“That was probably the dumbest mistake of my life,” Mack said.
Mack was vindicated by Howard, though, making Mack’s 30 points the most memorable part of his game. Mack went 10-of-16 from the floor on 7-of-12 3-point shooting.
Howard finished the third-round game with 16 points and six rebounds.
This is Butler’s fourth trip to the Sweet 16 in the last eight years. Butler (25-9), a No. 8 seed in this year’s tournament, has never been a No. 4 seed or better during those four trips.
Pittsburgh (28-6) would have clinched their sixth trip to the Sweet 16 in the last 10 years had they defeated the Bulldogs.
Butler’s win over the Southeast Region’s top seed and 2010 No. 1-seed Syracuse makes them the third team in NCAA tournament history to defeat a No. 1 seed prior to the Final Four in two consecutive years.
Both teams are in the Big East conference, which is annually labeled the best conference in college basketball and also had a tournament-record 11 teams in the tournament this year.