Thursday, March 25, 2010
Final: Butler 63, Syracuse 59
By Mark Schlabach
SALT LAKE CITY -- Butler did it.
After blowing a 10-point halftime lead, the Bulldogs scored 11 straight points in the final minutes to shock No. 1-seeded Syracuse 63-59 in the West Regional semifinals at EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday night.
The Bulldogs advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Butler, which has the country's longest winning streak at 23 games and hasn't lost since Dec. 22, plays the winner of Thursday night's game between No. 2-seeded Kansas State and No. 6-seeded Xavier in Saturday's West Regional finals.
With a victory on Saturday, Butler would play in the Final Four in its home city of Indianapolis next weekend.
After trailing 35-25 at the half, the Orange came out firing in the second half. Syracuse went ahead 54-50 on Kris Joseph's dunk with 5:23 to play. But then Butler guard Ronald Nored sank a 3-pointer to make it 54-53. After Matt Howard made a layup to give the Bulldogs a 55-54 lead with 2:41 left, Willie Veasley scored five straight points -- on a 3-pointer and tip-in -- to make it 60-54.
Syracuse becomes the second No. 1 seed to be eliminated from the NCAA tournament, joining Midwest Regional No. 1 seed Kansas, which lost to No. 9-seeded Northern Iowa 69-67 in the second round.
Gordon Hayward led the Bulldogs with 17 points on 4-for-7 shooting. Shelvin Mack added 14 points with five assists, and Veasley scored 13 points with two steals.
Wes Johnson led the Orange with 17 points and nine rebounds, and Andy Rautins had 15 points. The Orange were ultimately undone by 18 turnovers, including 12 in the first half.
Butler's victory over the Orange probably won't come as that big of a shock. The Bulldogs have become an NCAA tournament staple, making the field nine times in the past 14 years. They've made the Sweet 16 three times in the past four seasons and now they're one victory away from one heck of a homecoming next weekend.