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Clock Strikes Midnight For Pitt, Glass Slipper Once Again Belongs to Butler

Victor Marticorena, Patrick Crawley |
March 19, 2011 | 11:20 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Brad Stevens and Butler worked their magic once again. (Creative Commons)
Brad Stevens and Butler worked their magic once again. (Creative Commons)
It looks like Butler has some of that fairy tale magic left over from last year’s amazing run to the NCAA Championship game. Following a last-second win over Old Dominion, the eighth-seeded Bulldogs knocked off the first No. 1 seed of the tournament Saturday with a shocking 71-70 win over Pittsburgh.

Butler came out strong, going toe-to-toe with the highly-regarded Panthers. Taking a cue from their mascot, the Bulldogs came out the more aggressive of the two teams, opening a lead early and not relinquishing it in the first half.

However, Pitt came storming back and tied the game early in the second half. From there, the teams went back and forth, neither taking a lead larger than five points, which set the stage for a furious finish.

Up by one, Pitt had a chance to seal the game late. Instead Butler’s defense clamped down, forcing Pitt to commit a 24-second violation with 9.2 seconds left on the clock. With this “final” chance to come away with a victory, Butlers’ Shawn Vanzant dished the ball to a wide open Andrew Smith, who laid it in with two seconds left.

That’s when the true “March Madness” began.

Down one, Pitt inbounded the ball to Gilbert Brown at halfcourt, where he was inexplicably fouled with 1.4 seconds left on the clock. Brown hit the first free throw to tie the game, then missed the second, seemingly sending the game into overtime.

But the drama wasn’t finished.

Butler’s Matt Howard grabbed the rebound and instinctively threw the ball toward the Bulldogs’ basket for what would have been a full-court shot. In a stroke of fortune, he caught Pitt’s Nasir Robinson reaching across his left arm, which led to another foul call with 0.8 seconds left.

Howard sealed the win by hitting his first free throw and missing the second, ending the game 71-70 and sending Butler to the Sweet 16 for the second time in two years.

Player of the Game: 
Shelvin Mack (G, Butler) 

Even though he did almost cost his team the game in the final seconds, the Bulldogs would not have been in the game if it weren’t for Mack. He scored 30 points, shooting 10-for-6 from the field and 7-of-12 from downtown.

Each time it appeared Pitt was pulling away in the second half, Mack kept his team close, including a stretch with six minutes left in the game where he hit back-to-back threes followed by a pair of free throws. When all was said and done, the junior guard accounted for more than half of Butler’s 70 points; if you count his three assists that is.

Memorable Moments:
This game had many memorable moments. None of them can top the final 7.1 seconds, though. In fact, I doubt anything will be able to top this for the rest of the tournament.

Butler, who was down by one, managed to score an open layup with 2.2 seconds left. That’s crazy enough by itself. Throw in the foul on Brown at mid-court, the missed free throw, the Howard rebound and the last fateful slap across the wrist by Robinson and you have one of the most dramatic finishes in Tournament history.

What This Means:
With the win, Butler once again moves on to the Sweet 16, this time as an even higher seed than last year. It also makes it the fourth time since 2003 that the Bulldogs have made the Sweet 16.

The Bulldogs now play Wisconsin, a team that held on later Saturday to beat Kansas State.

With the loss, Pitt now makes it four years in a row where they have been eliminated in the round of 32 as a No. 3 seed or higher. This loss also means just five of the 11 original Big East teams are left in the tournament, with at least one more guaranteed to get knocked out because Syracuse and Marquette square off Sunday.


To reach Victor Marticorena by email, click here. Follow him on Twitter, @GrandpapaSports.

To reach Patrick Crawley, click here.



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