Butler upsets Pitt in crazy finish

Butler upsets Pitt in crazy finish
March 20, 2011, 2:49 am
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Saturday, March 19, 2011, 10:48 p.m.

By Ryan OHalloran
Staff writerCSNwashington.com

And to think Gordon Haywards half-court near-miss at the end of last years national championship game was Butlers zaniest finish in the NCAA tournament.

The Bulldogs third-round win over Pittsburgh Saturday night at Verizon Center added yet another chapter to their impressive postseason history and an improbable entry at that.

Matt Howards free throw with 0.8 seconds remaining lifted ninth-seeded Butler to a 71-70 upset win over top-seeded Pittsburgh and capped a bizarre finish that included two careless fouls in the final two seconds.

Butler (25-9) moves onto the Sweet 16 in the Southeast Region and will play Kansas State or Wisconsin. Pittsburgh (28-6) is the first top seed to be eliminated.

The Bulldogs leave Washington with two wins by a combined three points. Howards put-back at the buzzer on Thursday ousted Old Dominion.

One of the things that is very clear and needs to be made very clear is that were not a better basketball team than Old Dominion or Pittsburgh, Butler coach Brad Stevens said. We just had the ball last.

Said guard Shelvin Mack, who scored a game-high 30 points: Its been the craziest weekend of my life basketball-wise.

The madness started with 8.9 seconds remaining and Pitt leading 69-68 when Stevens and then Panthers coach Jamie Dixon called their final timeouts.

2.2 seconds. Butler ball handler Shawn Vanzant found an open Andrew Smith underneath for the go-ahead bucket.

1.4 seconds. Pittsburghs Gilbert Brown received the inbound pass and referee Terry Wymer called a foul on Mack just inside the half-court line.

While the officials settled on how much time (if any) to put on the clock, Mack stood in front of Brown for what he called a regular conversation. I asked where he was from. There was no trashing talking or anything like that.

Brown hit the first free throw, but missed the second. Howard grabbed the rebound and when he felt Nasir Robinsons hit his arm, he heaved the ball toward midcourt and a foul was called by Antonio Petty.

I knew we didnt have any timeouts so when I grabbed the ball, my reaction was to look up the court for a guard, Howard said. I felt his arm come across me so I threw the ball toward the rim.

Said Brown: Everything could have been avoided if I make a second free throw.

0.8 seconds. Howard swished the first free throw and purposely missed the second. Pittsburghs length-of-the-court shot came after the buzzer sounded.

This game is a really good example of anything can happen, said Howard, who scored the game-winning bucket Thursday against ODU.

The post-game focus, naturally, was on whether the fouls were good calls or the officials took the finish out of the players hands.

Its their call. Its their game, Dixon said. They did a very good job all the way through. Were not going to blame officials.

Pittsburgh rallied from a nine-point deficit to lead by five points (53-48) with 10:37 remaining. The game featured 10 ties.

The Panthers lost despite shooting 56.5 percent from the field, hitting six of 11 shots from 3-point territory and out-rebounding the Bulldogs 33-22.

We made a number of plays to put ourselves in position and werent able to close it, Dixon said. If we could out-rebound them by 11 and outshoot them by a high percentage, I thought we would be in good shape.

Instead, the Panthers head hope after getting bounced in the second round for the fourth time in six years.

Contact Ryan at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com