November 30, 2009

Butler Falls To #19 Clemson In Closing Seconds

Demontez Stitt hit two free throws with 0:03.3 left on the clock to lift #19 Clemson to a 70-69 come-from-behind victory over Butler in the fifth place game of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., on Sunday (Nov. 29).  The loss was Butler’s second to a nationally-ranked team in four days and left the Bulldogs at 4-2 on the young season.

Stitt’s game-winning play followed a missed shot by Butler’s Shelvin Mack with 14 seconds remaining.  The Clemson guard drove the length of the floor and made a cut into the lane, where he appeared to fumble the ball.  But a foul was called on Butler’s Willie Veasley, and Stitt calmly converted both free throws to give the Tigers (6-1) a one-point advantage.

Mack managed to get a shot off for the Bulldogs before the buzzer, but it was blocked out of bounds by Clemson’s Trevor Booker with 0:00.5 left.  Butler’s inbounds pass was tipped away by Booker ending the game.

“(Clemson) got in transition a couple of times late in the game, but other than that I thought we played pretty darn well,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game.

“One thing that got us was Stitt.  Coming into the game, he was three for 13 from the three-point line and he goes three for seven and winds up with 19 points.  He was 0-2 at the line and he steps up and makes the last two free throws with 0:03.3 seconds left.  That was a gutsy performance by him.”

Butler, ranked #10/12, was turning in the “gutsy performance” for most of the game.  The Bulldogs jumped to an 11-4 lead and stretched the margin to double-figures midway through the first half.  Clemson rallied to score five points in the final minute of the first half to cut Butler’s halftime lead to seven, 33-26.

The Bulldogs pushed the lead back to 12, 39-27 on a lay-up by guard Ronald Nored two minutes into the second half and still led by 10 points, 44-34, on a lay-up and free throw by guard Shawn Vanzant with 15:12 remaining.

But the Tigers put together a 9-0 scoring run to close the gap to a single point and the margin remained between two and four points for the rest of the game.  Butler took its final lead at 69-68 on a lay-up by Gordon Hayward with 0:52 left, setting up the drama of the closing seconds.

Hayward, who was named to the All-Tournament Team following the championship game victory by West Virginia, led all scorers in the game with 20 points and all rebounders with 12.  Mack added 15 points and junior Matt Howard had 10.  Stitt led the Tigers with 19 points, while Trevor Booker and Andre Young each added 12.

The Bulldogs will return to Indianapolis on Monday (Nov. 30) and then head to Muncie for a game against Ball State on Wednesday, Dec. 2.  The 7 p.m. (ET) contest will be Butler’s sixth consecutive game away from Hinkle Fieldhouse.