Butler's 34 points does it for UConn

Huskies hold off N.C. State to reach Sweet 16

Hodge's late three falls short, 77-74

East Regional

Ncaa Tournament

March 18, 2002|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - Aside from the occasional "ooh" and "aah," 31 of Caron Butler's 34 points passed without comment as his Connecticut Huskies battled North Carolina State yesterday in an NCAA second-round East Regional game.

The other three, however, elicited controversy in UConn's 77-74 win over the Wolfpack at MCI Center. With 11 seconds left and his team down 72-71, N.C. State's Julius Hodge was called for a foul on Butler, who had attempted a three-pointer as the shot clock expired.

It was difficult to hear the whistle, which may have come late and, according to Hodge, may have come unnecessarily. Though Hodge appeared to make contact with Butler's right arm during the shot, he wondered about the accuracy, as well as the timing.

"If a call like that comes at the end, it needs to be called throughout the whole game," said Hodge, who had 13 points, nine rebounds (seven offensive) and four assists. "It's hard to take, but that's the way it goes."

"I know I was fouled," said Butler, who had 20 of his 34 points over the final 10:45 and also had nine rebounds and four assists. "Julius was doing a great job of defending me, and I freed myself by making a crossover. ... I pulled up and he hit me on the forearm and the rest is history."

After Ilian Evtimov's three-pointer pulled N.C. State to 75-74 with 4.3 seconds left, Butler hit two more free throws and Hodge's 35-footer to send the game into overtime hit the rim.

Led by Butler, and with 18 points from Tony Robertson, the Huskies (26-6) moved into the East Regional semifinals against Southern Illinois on Friday in Syracuse, N.Y., despite 21 turnovers because of trouble breaking the N.C. State press.

Robertson gave the Huskies a 21-20 lead on a layup with nine minutes remaining in the first half. Robertson scored 10 straight points as part of an 18-3 run, including 14 unanswered points that ended with a turnaround jumper by Butler for a 31-20 edge with 5:48 remaining.

N.C. State trailed 35-30 at halftime, but crept back as Marcus Melvin and Anthony Grundy (17 points) became more of a factor and as the team began adjusting its press that Connecticut figured out in the first half.

Huskies point guard Taliek Brown lost control of the ball midway through the second half, leading to a turnover that N.C. State converted into a Melvin three-pointer with 11:24 left, that gave N.C. State a 48-47 lead.

Connecticut eventually went up 67-57 on two free throws by Butler. But five N.C. State players scored during a 14-5 run that ended with a three-point basket by Melvin that cut the Huskies' lead to 72-71 with 47 seconds left.

"They refused to go away and made our life certainly more difficult," Connecticut Jim Calhoun said of the Wolfpack. "Even the last shot had a chance. Down the stretch, they made as tough a shots as anybody has against us."

N.C. STATE-Powell 2-6 3-4 7, Melvin 5-10 1-2 15, Grundy 5-17 7-9 17, Miller 3-8 0-0 9, Hodge 6-13 0-0 13, Evtimov 3-8 0-0 8, Sherrill 2-2 0-0 5, Crawford 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-64 11-15 74. CONNECTICUT-Selvie 3-5 1-2 7, Okafor 3-4 2-2 8, Butler 10-13 12-12 34, T.Brown 2-4 4-4 8, Robertson 8-11 0-0 18, Gordon 0-4 0-0 0, Hazelton 0-0 0-0 0, Hayes 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 26-42 21-22 77.

Halftime-Connecticut 35-30. 3-point goals-N.C. State 11-26 (Melvin 4-7, Miller 3-7, Evtimov 2-6, Sherrill 1-1, Hodge 1-4, Grundy 0-1), Connecticut 4-8 (Butler 2-3, Robertson 2-4, Gordon 0-1). Fouled out-None. Rebounds-N.C. State 27 (Hodge 9), Connecticut 30 (Butler 9). Assists-N.C. State 14 (Grundy, Hodge 4), Connecticut 14 (Gordon 5). Total fouls-N.C. State 17, Connecticut 13.

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