Late shot falls this time for Butler in 60-58 win over Old Dominion

Howard's last-second put-back shot pushes Bulldogs into third round

March 17, 2011|By Jeff Barker | The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — When last America saw them, the Butler Bulldogs had finished their season a half-court fling away from a national title.

On Thursday, the first step of Butler's attempt to return to national celebrity encountered a formidable Old Dominion team that, like the Bulldogs, had won nine games in a row. This time, the Bulldogs got the buzzer-beater they had been denied in last season's championship game.

Senior Forward Matt Howard's putback in the final second pushed Butler past Old Dominion, 60-58, as the Bulldogs beat the Monarchs at their own game – rebounding – when it mattered most. The second-round NCAA tournament outcome left eighth-seeded Butler with a matchup against the Pittsburgh-UNC-Asheville winner on Saturday.

Howard collected an offensive rebound after teammate Andrew Smith kept alive a miss by Shawn Vanzant. Smith tipped the ball off the glass after Vanzant had stumbled while releasing his shot on a drive to the basket.

Howard's putback had to be reviewed by the officials.

"I was praying to God the red light went on before the shot went up," said Old Dominion's Frank Hassell, a 6-9, 255-pound senior who entered averaging 9.6 rebounds per game.

"It was like I was stabbed in the heart," said Hassell, who had a game-high 20 points.

Said Howard: "It's pretty easy when it's just you and the ball and the rim."

Many of Butler's familiar faces were back from its memorable season that ended with a 61-59 loss to Duke in Indianapolis. There was junior guard Shelvin Mack and Howard and coach Brad Stevens, still the most cherubic-looking coach in the tournament. Gone is Gordon Hayward (Utah Jazz), whose last-second missed heave in the title game would have been immortalized had it fallen. Mack and Howard led Butler Thursday with 15 points each.

Old Dominion entered with the nation's best rebounding margin (plus 12.2). Because of its size, some pundits were assessing Old Dominion's chances before the game of playing top-seeded Pitt and its large front court in the second round. "You get tripped up looking ahead," Monarchs guard Kent Bazemore said before Thursday's game.

Butler more than neutralized the Monarchs on the board. The Bulldogs had 18 offensive rebounds and more overall rebounds – 32-29 – than the Monarchs.

"In the second half, it was just so physical around the basket," said Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor. "It was a man's game, not a boy's game."

Butler was within 29-27 at the half, thanks to the shooting of Mack, who had 11 points by then.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

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