March 17, 2011

Howard Lifts Butler Over Old Dominion

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Forward Matt Howard hit a lay-up with less than a second remaining to lift Butler to a 60-58 victory over Old Dominion in the second round of the 2011 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship at the Verizon Center on Thursday (March 17).  The win advances the Bulldogs to the third round of the tournament on Saturday (March 19).

Howard’s dramatic play rescued the Bulldogs, who had let a six-point lead slip away in the final 2:35.  It also gave Butler an opening victory in the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five years.

“That was two really good teams playing a really hard-fought game,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the victory.  “It’s what you envision the eight-nine game to be in an ideal world.  Both teams came out shooting the basketball well and both teams, kind of unusually found their defensive rhythm later in the game.  We had the last possession and we were fortunate to win.”

The final possession came after Old Dominion’s Kent Basemore hit a pair of free throws with 0:32 left to tie the game at 58-58.  Butler ran the clock down to the final 10 seconds and senior Shawn Vanzant drove the left side of the lane.  As he stopped for a short pull-up jump shot, his foot slipped and he launched a shot toward the basket as he was falling backwards.

Vanzant’s shot came up short, but sophomore Andrew Smith managed to get a hand on it a tip it over the basket.  Howard was there to catch the miss and put it back in the basket as the final buzzer sounded.

“A lot of credit has to go to Andrew, who made a great play to keep the ball alive,” said Howard.  “My guy went with him on that jump and it’s pretty easy when its just you and the ball and the rim.”

Stevens added a nod to Vanzant’s effort.

“He made a heck of a play to get the ball up while falling down,” noted Stevens.

Butler battled back from a 29-27 halftime deficit, eventually taking a 51-50 advantage on a Howard lay-up with 7:25 left.  The Bulldogs never trailed after that and built the lead to 58-52 on a pair of free throws by Howard with 2:43 remaining.

But the Monarchs (27-7) responded with six consecutive points to tie the game and set up the dramatic finish.

Howard and junior Shelvin Mack led the Bulldogs with 15 points apiece, while Smith added 11, despite battling foul problems.  Old Dominion’s Frank Hassell led all scorers with 20 points.

The Bulldogs, led by Smith and junior Garrett Butcher, wound up out-rebounding the Monarchs, who entered the game as the top rebounding squad in the NCAA Division I.  Smith and Butcher each finished with six rebounds, while Howard added five to help the Bulldogs to a 32-29 advantage on the boards.

The Bulldogs (24-9) have advanced in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year.