Video by Elyssa Garfinkle
Story by Steven Peek
A 74-71 overtime victory against the No. 2 seed Florida Gators makes the Bulldogs champions of the NCAA tournament’s Southeast Region.
After the game, junior guard Ronald Nored even shouted those same famous words, which preceded senior guard Zach Hahn shouting, “Your dogs are back, woof woof!”
Butler advanced to its second consecutive Final Four, just one year after losing the national championship game by two points.
“I’m incredibly proud of these guys,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “They carried their coach today in a big way. I got out-coached today big time, but our assistants did a great job and our players did a great job.
“We’re really lucky that they’re Butler Bulldogs.”
Florida and Butler were both previously undefeated in NCAA Regional Finals—Butler 1-0 (2010) and Florida 4-0 (1994, 2000, 2006, 2007)—so something had to give.
The Gators caved and the Bulldogs advanced to Houston where they will face the winner of the VCU-Kansas game tomorrow night.
Defeating a tested Florida men’s basketball program wasn’t the only history Butler made.
Butler won its first overtime game of the season, having lost the first three.
Butler is also the first non-Bowl Championship Series school to make consecutive Final Fours since UNLV in 1990 and 1991.
To make such history, Butler had to overcome a lot to punch a ticket to Houston.
Florida senior center Vernon Macklin had 25 points on 11-of-14 shooting in the game, and senior forward Alex Tyus had 14 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton was hard to stop in the second half and scored 17 points on the Bulldogs.
“I was asked earlier do you talk about going to the Final Four, or trying to win a national championship game, and the answer is no,” Stevens said. “We talk about how to guard a cross screen, which we didn’t do very well, and how to guard on-ball screens, which we didn’t do very well at the start.
“But we stayed together, stayed the course, figured it out, and just played resiliently.”
Senior forward Matt Howard and junior guard Shelvin Mack echoed Stevens’ thought, both saying that the win was a team effort.
“We talked about not having any regrets,” Howard said. “If we’re talking about offensive rebounding, don’t have any regrets not going [for the ball].”
Butler countered with positives of their own, Mack’s shooting, team defense and the bench being the most pivotal of them all.
Mack led all scorers with 27 points, which he accumulated on 8-of-20 shooting with four 3-pointers. His 1,490 career points surpassed Jon Neuhouser’s and are now 11th on Butler’s all-time scoring list.
The Bulldogs also held Florida to 25-of-57 (43.9 percent) shooting making this the Gators’ first 2011 NCAA tournament game in which they did not shoot at least 45 percent.
Gators’ All-American senior forward Chandler Parsons was held to five points, and junior guard Erving Walker shot 1-of-10 from the field, making only one of his seven 3-pointers attempted.
That lone made shot gave the Gators a one-point lead with 141 remaining in regulation but was answered 20 seconds later by a Mack long-distance shot
Butler also received strong play from its bench.
Freshman guard Chrishawn Hopkins epitomized Butler’s great bench play.
During a timeout with 7:37 left in regulation, Brad Stevens told his team, “Score, get a stop, then score.” Hopkins listened and facilitated.
After sophomore center Andrew Smith passed an offensive rebound to Hopkins, the freshman made a no-look pass to Howard for a layup.
Then following a missed Boynton jumper, Hopkins received a pass from a driving Mack and sank a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs within four points.
From then on, momentum belonged to Butler, who was then in process of overcoming an 11-point deficit.
Freshman forward Khyle Marshall also had an impact off the bench and was especially necessary as Smith got into foul trouble and eventually fouled out. Marshall scored 10 points and grabbed seven offensive rebounds against the longer and older Gators.
Butler out-rebounded Florida 41-34, and Marshall’s seven offensive rebounds were nearly half of the team’s 16.
“I thought we had some great effort plays from our freshmen,” Howard said. “Our bench was good for us today.”
Marshall even created a key three-point play late in the second half after one of his offensive grabs.
“It was remarkable—a high, high basketball play,” Stevens said. “Very few guys can do it. He was so quick off the floor and so high.”
The play was indicative of the Elite 8 game’s physical nature.
“I think it was two teams really playing hard and playing aggressive,” Florida head coach Billy Donovan said. “Really, I think they won the battle when the ball was up in the air, and I think that was the difference in the game.”
“[Butler] had great, great heart tonight.”
One such hustle play game when Butler led 72-71 with 19 seconds remaining. Boynton missed a 3-pointer and players from both teams came down with a rebound, resulting in a jump ball which favored the Bulldogs.
From then, Butler had a tactical advantage in the game. Two Mack free throws created the eventual final score and the final seconds melted away after Nored got a defensive rebound and threw the ball toward the court’s opposite end.
Butler will know its next opponent once the Rams and Jayhawks face off. That semifinal game will be played Saturday at a time yet to be determined.