HOUSTON – The Bulldogs' remarkable tourney run to Houston will last one more game. Butler is back in the NCAA national final, grinding its way to a 70-62 win over VCU Saturday night in the Final Four.
Junior Shelvin Mack led Butler with 24 points and senior Matt Howard had 17 points and eight rebounds. Mack was firing 3-pointers from the start, finishing 5-for-6 from beyond the arc. Mack, who also grabbed six boards, finished 8-for-11 shooting. VCU's Jamie Skeen had a game-high 27 points.
Butler methodically picked apart VCU's vaunted pressure defense and controlled the glass the entire night, using a stifling defensive effort to earn a berth in the national title game.
"Butler was the aggressor for the majority of the game," VCU coach Shaka Smart said. "We had our runs."
The Bulldogs out-rebounded VCU by a 48-32 margin, including 16 offensive boards that led to 19 second-chance points. The Rams' full-court defense was effective early, but BU took care of the ball in the second half and finished with only nine turnovers.
Mack started the game with five straight points, hitting a deep trey and a driving lay-up. VCU answered with an 11-0 run as BU went cold shooting from the floor and committed some uncharacteristic turnovers. VCU led 15-7 when the Bulldogs punched back with an 8-0 run featuring four Howard free throws and two putbacks.
Later, a 3-pointer by Mack gave Butler a 25-24 lead, its first advantage since leading 5-3. Five points by Howard, including a jumper with 31 seconds left, gave Butler a 34-28 lead at halftime. The six-point lead tied VCU's largest deficit in the tournament.
Butler (28-9) will play Connecticut in the national championship game Monday night. Tip-off is set for 9:23 p.m. ET.
"We've just got to be one shot better than last year," BU head coach Brad Stevens said.