Saturday, April 2, 2011, 11:15 p.m.
By Ryan OHalloran
HOUSTON Watching the videotape of his teams 70-62 loss to Butler in the Final Four will likely only confirm what VCU coach Shaka Smart saw from his charges Saturday night inside Reliant Stadium.
Team Full Throttle downshifted in mid-game.
And it might have cost VCU a spot in Mondays national championship game.
For a coach who wants to play consistently up tempo regardless of the situation, it represented the biggest disappointment about the Rams improbable run to the national semifinals coming to an end.
Whats brought us success in the NCAA tournament was really being aggressive and pushing the pedal to the metal even when we do get leads, Smart said. I cant give an explanation right now.
First half: The Rams score six of seven possessions to lead 15-7. But they then go five trips without a point, allowing Butler to get back in the game.
I was nervous as heck when they started making all those 3s early, Butler coach Brad Stevens said. Early in the game, we werent aggressive or assertive enough in our rotations but to their credit, they might be the best passing team weve played in the tournament.
Second half: Down six points, VCU sprints into the lead with a 7-0 lead. But the offense hit another rut, scoring only three field goals in the next six minutes.
The free-wheeling, 3-point shooting Rams disappeared for a large stretch of the game even though they finished 8-of-22 from beyond the arc.
But during a 30-minute stretch that bridged the halves, VCU hit only three 3-pointers.
Smart pointed to how Butlers defense would switch assignments on ball screens.
What it did for them is take away open shots for us because they were switching and didnt have two guys guarding one, Smart said.
A second factor was Butlers ability to get back on defense so effectively. VCUs vaunted transition 3-point shooting offense was non-existent.
They did a great job scrambling and getting out on our shooters, Smart said.
When asked about the officiating, Smart gestured toward CAA commissioner Tom Yeager in the back of the interview room.
VCU was called for 24 fouls, Butler 16. Butler shot 26 free throws, VCU 13.
I better be careful commenting about that, Smart said. I thought the foul disparity was significant and really affected the game. There are some teams that have a way of being physical on the defensive end without getting a lot of fouls called and thats a very good attribute to have.
They really use their bodies well and they know how to position and that was definitely the case in this game.
Smart did admit the game got bogged down because of the fouls.
The announced attendance of 75,248 at Reliant Stadium was a semifinal night record for the Final Four.
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