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Thursday, March 25, 2010
Halftime: Butler 35, Syracuse 25

By Mark Schlabach

SALT LAKE CITY -- Butler handled No. 1-seeded Syracuse's 2-3 zone defense just fine in the first half of Thursday night's West Regional semifinals at EnergySolutions Arena.

It was the Orange who couldn't solve the No. 5-seeded Bulldogs' defense.

Buoyed by Syracuse's 12 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, Butler took a 35-25 lead over Syracuse at the half. It is the Orange's largest halftime deficit of the season -- they trailed by five points at the half in a 99-85 win at Providence on Feb. 23 -- and it's only the fourth time they have trailed at the half all season.

Butler, which has the country's longest winning streak at 22 consecutive games and hasn't lost since Dec. 22, is seeking its first trip to the NCAA tournament's Elite Eight.

Syracuse didn't take care of the basketball, and Butler's Ronald Nored hounded Andy Rautins from the opening tip, disrupting the Orange offense.

Butler shot 40 percent against Syracuse's vaunted 2-3 zone in the first half, making 12 of 30 shots. The Bulldogs were only 3-for-13 on 3-pointers, but they took nine more shots and had only two turnovers in the half.

Sophomore guard Shelvin Mack led the Bulldogs with 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting. Butler took a 10-point lead at the half even after stars Gordon Hayward and Matt Howard were relatively quiet. Hayward scored only five points on 1-for-2 shooting, and Howard had five points on 1-for-6 shooting.

Junior Wes Johnson led Syracuse with six points and seven rebounds.