Nov. 25, 2006
Junior A. J. Graves, coming off a prime time performance at the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York, turned in another heroic effort to lead Butler to a thrilling, 83-80, double-overtime victory over Kent State in front of a vocal crowd of 3,647 frenzied fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Nov. 25. The win was Butler's third in four days and lifted the NIT champ Bulldogs to 7-0 on the young season. Kent State fell to 4-2.
Graves, who struggled to find his shooting touch through most of the game, hit perhaps the biggest shot of the game when he nailed a three-point field goal with 0:06 left in the first overtime period to send the game into a second overtime. He then scored nine points in the second extra session to help the Bulldogs salvage a three-point win!
The 6-1 guard, who was named Most Valuable Player at the 2006 NIT Season Tip-Off in New York, led all scorers in the contest with 26 points. He added five assists and two steals, while committing just one turnover in 48 minutes of action!
"He's a great player. He made some huge plays," said Kent State coach Jim Christian after the game. "He's a hard guy to stop for 40 minutes."
"A. J. was terrific," praised Butler head coach Todd Lickliter. "But so was the entire team. I'm just amazed at what these guys have done!"
What the Bulldogs did was pull off a big upset of highly-touted Gonzaga in the championship game of the NIT Season Tip-Off in New York on Friday evening, fly back to Indianapolis and arrive at Hinkle Fieldhouse at 3 a.m., and then turn around and defeat a very strong Kent State squad on Saturday evening.
The Bulldogs had to battle from behind against Kent State. The Golden Flashes led 25-20 after 20 minutes and 40-32 after 27 minutes. Butler clawed back and eventually took a 50-48 lead on a pair of free throws by Graves with 4:17 left in regulation. Kent State looked to have the edge when Omni Smith hit a desperation three-point field goal with 0:19 left to give the Golden Flashes a 57-55 lead, but the Bulldogs tied the game on a layup by Brian Ligon with 0:07 remaining.
Kent State again looked to have the game in hand when Haminn Quaintance hit a pair of free throws to give his team a 67-64 lead with 11 seconds left in the first overtime. But Graves drove the length of the floor and hit a pull-up three-point field goal with 0:06 left to send the contest into a second overtime period.
Butler took the lead for good at 75-74 in the second extra session on a pair of free throws by Graves with 2:43 left. The Butler guard followed the two charity tosses with a lay-up to make it 77-74.
Junior guard Mike Green, who played all 50 minutes, hit 12 of 14 free throw attempts and finished with 16 points, while senior Brandon Crone added 15 points before fouling out with 3:14 left in regulation. Senior Brian Ligon added a career-high 13 points. Graves and Green shared the team rebounding lead with six apiece.
Quaintance led Kent State with 20 points, while Smith came off the bench with 18. Guard Armon Gates notched 17.
Butler will have a brief rest, before heading to Valparaiso for a non-league test on Wednesday, Nov. 29.