SAN JOSE, Calif. – Butler got to the second round of the NCAA Tournament with long-range shooting. But it was late half-court defense and a big shot by sophomore Ronald Nored that will be taking the Bulldogs to the Sweet 16 as No. 5 seed Butler held off 13th-seeded Murray State, 54-52, Saturday afternoon.
The Bulldogs got a defensive stop as time expired just moments after Nored’s 3-point play and the Bulldogs are on their way to their third Sweet 16 in eight years. Butler will face Sunday’s Syracuse-Gonzaga winner.
The game was tied at 50 in the final minute when Nored drove the lane and sank a runner from the baseline with 25.4 seconds left. He was fouled on the play and made the free throw to put Butler ahead 53-50. After two Murray State free throws, junior Matt Howard made one of two free throws to make it a 54-52 Butler lead.
MSU’s Isaiah Canaan brought the ball down in the final possession, only to have the ball knocked into the backcourt and stolen by a diving Gordon Hayward as time expired.
Nored led the Bulldogs (31-4) with 15 points and six assists. Hayward had 12 points and seven rebounds while sophomore Shelvin Mack scored 11 and senior Willie Veasley added 10.
The early second-round game at San Jose’s HP Pavilion matched two teams with a combined 41-1 record in 2010, both carrying rich basketball traditions. Although the Racers were compelling candidates to carry the small-school banner into the tournament's second weekend, Butler has been doing it for years -- and with an enrollment that's less than half of Murray State's 10,500.
Still, Murray State got agonizingly close to its first trip to the regional semifinals before Butler finally showed its poise. The Bulldogs built a 46-38 with 6:05 to play after a 9-0 run, but the Racers came back with a 10-1 run, including Canaan's go-ahead 3-pointer with 4:50 left. Butler went scoreless for nearly three minutes until finally replying, tying it on a Mack jumper with 1:22 left.
After building an early 12-3 lead, Canaan led Murray State back into the game with a flurry of 3-pointers. The Racers shot 5-for-6 from beyond the arc while holding BU to 8-for-28 shooting on their way to a 26-22 halftime lead.
Butler trailed 33-26 early in the second half before going on an 8-0 run to take a 34-33 lead with 13:07 to play.
Canaan was the only player in double figures for Ohio Valley Conference champ Murray State (31-5). The Racers had a 39-22 rebounding advantage and finished 9-for-14 from 3-point range. However, Butler committed just six turnovers to MSU’s 18.
Butler is playing in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year and fifth time in eight years. The Bulldogs also advanced to the Sweet 16 in 2003 and 2007.