INDIANAPOLIS - Despite a career-high 22 points from sophomore forward Khyle Marshall, the Bulldogs fell in overtime to Pittsburgh 68-62 in the semifinals of the 2012 College Basketball Invitational. The game was a re-match of last year's NCAA Tournament Third Round game, which Butler won 71-70 to advance to the "Sweet Sixteen."
A 12-2 run, featuring an electrifying alley-oop dunk from freshman guard Alex Barlow to Marshall, gave Butler (22-15) an early 18-12 lead over Pittsburgh.
However, the Panthers (20-16) refused to go down without a fight, clawing back to force a back-and-forth game that saw 10 lead changes.
Leading 46-40 with 6:07 remaining, the momentum shifted toward Pittsburgh. Butler shot 4-of-8 from the free throw line in the game's final four minutes, allowing the Panthers to cut its deficit to three points with 46 seconds remaining.
On the ensuing Pittsburgh possession, sophomore forward Lamar Patterson drilled a game-tying 3-pointer to send the game to overtime.
"It never felt like we were in control of the game," Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. "We had a lot of things we could have controlled to win that game. The difference between winning and losing is not that much and that's why winning is really hard to do."
Patterson helped the Panthers take control in the extra period. Together, he and junior guard Tray Woodall accounted for 14 of Pittsburgh's 16 overtime points, as the Panthers sealed the win over Butler.
Junior center Andrew Smith scored 19 points for Butler, his 24th double-figure game of the season. Smith also hauled down six rebounds, second most for the Bulldogs behind Marshall's eight.
In the loss, the Bulldogs held Pre-Season Big East Player of the Year, Ashton Gibbs, scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting. The senior guard is the eighth leading scorer in Pittsburgh history.
Playing his final game as a Bulldog, Butler senior guard Ronald Nored defended Gibbs for most of the night. Nored, the reigning Horizon League Defensive Player of the Year, recorded two steals, tying Thomas Jackson for most steals in Butler basketball history with 207.
"What Ronald [Nored] has meant to the school is second to none," Stevens said. "The two seniors have given so much. No two seniors we've ever had could have done a better job with this team. They stayed positive throughout the entire season."
With one second remaining in overtime, Stevens called a timeout in order to check senior forward Garrett Butcher into the game.
"The experience I've had here, not just basketball wise, has been tremendous," Butcher said. "If you would have told me coming in that we would win 109 games and go to two Final Fours, I wouldn't have believed you."
Nored and Butcher helped the Bulldogs win 109 games during their four years, third most by a senior class in Butler history.
Despite the leadership and success brought about by the seniors, the loss shifts Butler's focus from the past to the future.
"[Chrishawn Hopkins] had a really good last month," Stevens said. "We can build with him not only as a player, but also as a person in the program that can tell guys what to do."
Hopkins finished with nine points and will be one of 12 returning players next season.