Butler outlasts Florida in OT, returns to Final FourMar 27, 2011 - 12:40 AM
And just like that, the Butler Bulldogs are back in the Final Four.
Mack buried a three-pointer for the lead, made two free throws for some distance and Butler held on for a 74-71 victory over Florida in an overtime thriller Saturday in the Southeast Regional Final.
Runners-up last year, the eighth-seeded Bulldogs (27-9) are making another improbable run through the NCAA Tournament.
Despite trailing Florida by 11 points with nine minutes left in regulation, they moved on to meet either Kansas or VCU in Houston next weekend -- the first non-BCS affiliated school to make back-to-back Final Fours in 20 years.
"We played resiliently," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "I'm incredibly proud."
Walker missed a three-pointer at the end of regulation with a chance to win the game for second-seeded Florida (29-8), then missed a long three at the end of overtime with a chance to tie it.
After making the national championship game last year as a No. 5 seed, then losing to Duke, perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that the Bulldogs are one win from doing it again.
"We knew they were a great team," said Florida forward Chandler Parsons.
Mack scored 27 to lead Butler, none more important than the three-pointer he knocked down for a 72-70 lead with 1:21 remaining in overtime.
The shot came just moments after Walker, the team's leading scorer, hit a three at the other end to put Florida ahead by one. That was Walker's only made field goal of the game, however, and he finished with just eight points.
He made 1-of-2 free throws to pull the Gators within 72-71. Mack then missed a long three-point try, hitting only the backboard from the left side after letting the clock run down to 34 seconds.
But Florida didn't take advantage of the opportunity.
Needing only two points for the lead, Kenny Boynton fired up a three-pointer from several feet beyond the arc on the left side. Butler forward Matt Howard jumped on it, and the Bulldogs won possession on a jump ball.
Mack hit two free throws at the other end to make it 74-71 with 10.6 seconds left. The final Florida possession ended with Walker throwing up another long three-point try from well beyond the top of the arc.
It missed and Butler's Ronald Nored got the rebound, throwing it across midcourt from under the basket. Kenny Boynton tracked it down for Florida, but it was too late.
Howard added 14 points and Khyle Marshall scored 10 for Butler, which has won 13 games in a row -- including tournament victories over Old Dominion, top- seeded Pittsburgh and fourth-seeded Wisconsin. The Bulldogs are 9-1 in their last 10 tournament games.
Vernon Macklin scored 25 points to lead Florida, Boynton had 17 and Alex Tyus added 14 with a game-high 10 rebounds. Walker ended 1-for-10 from the field, including 1-for-7 on three-pointers.
The end of regulation was also frantic as Butler used an extended 17-6 run to tie the game.
Mack finished it off with back-to-back buckets, hitting a side-step floater in the lane and then driving for a layup that was barely contested by Florida, knotting the score at 57-57 with 3:03 left.
Florida scored the next three points, capped by Macklin's left-handed drive from the right baseline. Mack followed with two free throws to get Butler within 60-59 with 1:34 left.
The Bulldogs locked down on defense, forcing Walker to throw up a shot as the clock wound down. He missed, and Howard hit 1-of-2 at the line to tie the game at 60-60 with 30 seconds remaining.
At the other end, Walker held the ball as the clock ticked down, then made his move with about four seconds left. He dribbled right, pulled up and let go a three-point try that rolled off the back rim, sending the game to overtime.
Florida head coach Billy Donovan said he liked the look Walker got at the end of regulation, even though his junior guard was 0-for-7 from the field before the shot.
"He's made big shots for us before," said Donovan.
Mack scored the first eight points of the game for Butler on a back-to-back threes and a jumper and finished 8-for-20 from the field, including 4-of-13 from three-point range.
"I just tried to stay aggressive," he said.
Florida led by as many as 10 points in the first half, but Butler used a 7-0 run to get back into it and pulled within 33-32 heading into the locker room.
UNLV was the last non-BCS school to make consecutive Final Fours in 1990-91...Florida, which knocked off UC-Santa Barbara, UCLA and Jimmer Fredette and BYU to reach the Elite Eight, was trying to make the Final Four for the fourth time under Donovan.
- BUTLER: 74
Final - OT
Mar 26 7:00 PM
- BUTLER: 60
End of Regulation
Mar 26 6:39 PM
- BUTLER: 32
Mar 26 5:20 PM
- BUTLER: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Mar 26 4:31 PM
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