Rapid Reaction: Butler 61, Wisconsin 54

March, 25, 2011
3/25/11
1:05
AM ET
NEW ORLEANS -- Butler coach Brad Stevens strolled toward his postgame interview, gave a little exhale and that was the extent of his emotion after the Bulldogs beat Wisconsin 61-54.

Butler is in the Elite Eight for the second straight season. Ho hum.

Stevens’ postseason run at Butler's helm is becoming epic as the Bulldogs face Florida Saturday at the New Orleans Arena with a chance to go to the Final Four.

OK. After last season's title game, did anybody have Butler in this year's Elite Eight but not Duke? I’d like to see that bracket.

Butler dominated the Badgers for 35 minutes before Wisconsin mounted a furious rally to make it a one possession game. But once again it was Butler making plays, notably Shelvin Mack with a step-back jumper to push the Bulldogs to a six-point lead with 51 seconds remaining. Matt Howard came up with a key rebound off a missed free throw to ensure Wisconsin didn’t get any closer with less than 30 seconds remaining.

Butler has two NBA players in Mack and Howard. The Bulldogs getting to the Elite Eight may not be as much of a shock when think about the talent, the winning plays and the makeup of this group.

The bigger question now is how did this team lose at Youngstown State and Evansville at home?

But that means nothing now. The Bulldogs are tournament tough, tested and in position to return to the Final Four where plenty of other contenders have failed.

Key stats: The Bulldogs dominated the backboard, outrebounding the Badgers by seven and getting 25 defensive rebounds to limit the Badgers’ possessions. The Bulldogs’ defense bottled up plenty of Badger scorers, notably Jon Leuer, who was 1-of-12 and 1-for-6 on 3-pointers.

Stars of the game: Howard scored 20 points and grabbed 12 boards. If you’re an NBA personnel director you must start positioning him in the draft. Mack was once again a solid contributor with 13.

Quite a finish: Wisconsin junior guard Jordan Taylor scored 22 but was 3-of-10 on 3s. Still, he’s a gamer and should be a contender for Big Ten player of the year next season.

What’s next: Butler is off to play Florida Saturday for a berth in the Final Four. Wisconsin can look back at a strong season where they overachieved once again.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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