The magic continues for the Butler Bulldogs. 2010’s National Runner-up is back in the Sweet Sixteen and top-ranked teams are once again laying in their wake. Butler beat Old Dominion on Thursday on the buzzer-beater and nearly did so again today against Pitt.
The tale of the game could be told starting with 7.1 seconds to go with Butler trailing 69-68. Butler inbounded the ball, got the ball inside and got the go-ahead layup from Andrew Smith with 2.2 seconds to go. Pittsburgh then inbounded the ball to halfcourt with Gilbert Brown trying a catch and shoot before time expired.
Butler guard Shelvin Mack met Brown just after the ball arrived drawing a whistle. Was the contact between Mack and Brown a foul? Yes. Would I rather the referee’s swallow their whistle in that spot? Definitely.
The result was two free throws for Brown. He hit the first to tie the game at 70. The second rattled out and was rebounded by Matt Howard. Just like the play before there was some contact as Howard tried to simply throw the ball down court to get the game to overtime. Once again, there was a whistle.
A foul? Yes. Would I rather the referees swallow their whistle in that spot? Absolutely.
Howard would go on to make the first free throw before missing the second giving the Bulldogs a 71-70 win over the Panthers making Pitt the first No. 1 seed to exit the 2011 NCAA Basketball Tournament.
While most will focus on the final seven seconds, the story of the game was Shelvin Mack and a resilient Butler squad that simply refused to give up. Mack scored 30 points on 10-16 shooting, including 7-12 from deep. In the second half when it looked like Pitt was taking over the game it was Mack that kept the Bulldogs within striking distance.
Pittsburgh shot the ball incredibly well – 56.5% from the field and still found a way to lose. The Panthers dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Bulldogs 31-21 and still found a way to lose. As has been the case with Pitt in the past in this tournament, they found a way to lose.
Butler now moves on to face the winner of the Kansas State – Wisconsin game next weekend.