March 14, 2006
Senior Brandon Polk's put-back tip with two seconds remaining lifted Butler to a 53-52 win over Miami (Ohio) in the opening round of the National Invitational Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse Tuesday night. The Bulldogs overcame their second-worst shooting performance of the season, but made plays down the stretch to score the win. With the win, Butler improves to 20-12. The RedHawks fall to 18-11.
Miami's Tim Pollitz answered a Polk lay-up with a tough jumper of his own to give the RedHawks a 52-51 lead with 25 seconds remaining. After a Butler timeout, the Bulldogs tried to get the ball to Polk initially on the block, but Miami covered him and forced senior Avery Sheets to drive the lane. His contested lay-up attempt rimmed out and Polk was there to tip in the ball for the game-winner.
"We played with a lot of effort at the end and really stuck with it tonight," said Butler coach Todd Lickliter. "Miami is as well-coached and prepared as any team that I've played or coached against. We didn't play well because of what Miami did, but we were able to persevere. A lot of that had to do with the atmosphere in here tonight and we want to thank the fans for that."
Polk had just nine points, nine below his season average and his fewest total since Jan. 7 at UW-Milwaukee. But the 6-6 forward had the biggest four points of the game in the final 47 seconds of the game. Sophomore A. J. Graves led the Bulldogs with 19 points on 6-of-13 shooting. He added four steals.
The lead changed eight times in the second half, as Miami got the lead to seven at 35-28 with 13:39 to play. Butler answered with an 8-0 run to re-take the lead for the first time after the break when Graves hit a three-pointer for a 36-35 advantage two minutes later. The RedHawks countered with a 7-0 run for a 42-36 lead before Bruce Horan capped a seven-point spurt for Butler with his third three-pointer of the game, giving the Bulldogs a 43-42 advantage.
Miami then regained the lead and pushed it to four before Horan's fourth trey pulled Butler within one and Polk's post move with 47 seconds remaining gave the Bulldogs a 51-50 lead.
Miami got out to a quick start, taking a 13-5 lead six minutes into the contest. Horan responded with back-to-back three-pointers to trim the lead to two and become just the 30th member of Butler's 1,000-point club. After another Butler 7-0 run knotted the contest at 20, the RedHawks scored seven of the half's final nine points, including a halfcourt heave from Pollitz as time expired.
Butler shot just 31 percent in the opening 20 minutes and was out-rebounded 22-7. Thirteen of Butler's first 17 attempts from the field came from behind the arc and the Bulldogs managed to hit only three of those tries. Butler hit 5-of-10 from three-point range in the second half and didn't allow the RedHawks an offensive rebound.
Horan had 12 points on 4-of-11 shooting from behind the arc. The Bulldogs shot 37 percent from the field, tying its second-worst accuracy mark of the season. Butler made up for that by committing only seven turnovers, while forcing the RedHawks into 16 miscues. Sheets had six assists.
Miami shot 48 percent from the field and was led by Pollitz's double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds.
The Bulldogs advance to face Florida State Friday (March 17) in Tallahassee as NIT action continues. Tuesday's win gives Butler eight 20-win seasons in its last 10 campaigns and its first since the 2003 Sweet 16 squad.