College Basketball Nation: 040310 bulldogs-spartans

Video: Breaking down Butler's win

April, 3, 2010

Andy Katz and Pat Forde give a quick take on Butler's 52-50 win over Michigan State in Saturday's first national semifinal game in Indianapolis.

By the numbers: Butler-Michigan State

April, 3, 2010
Courtesy of our friends over at ESPN Stats and Information, here are a few numbers and factoids to digest in the wake of Butler's win over Michigan State.

  • The 52-50 final made for the lowest combined score in a national semifinal game since Michigan State beat Wisconsin 53-41 in 2000. The Spartans went on to win the title two days later.
  • In the shot-clock era (since 1986), the 52 points scored by Butler are the fewest ever for a victor in the national semifinals.
  • Butler won despite dishing out a season-low five assists and shooting 24 percent in the second half.
  • Butler has held all five of its tournament opponents under 60 points. The last team to put together a streak that long in the same tourney was the 1985 Cinderella squad from Villanova. And we all know how that one turned out.
  • Butler is just the third 5-seed to make the title game. The other two couldn't quite finish it off: Florida lost to Michigan State here in Indy in 2000 and Indiana lost to Maryland in 2002.
  • If it wins Monday, Butler would be the lowest-seeded champion since Danny Manning led 6th-seeded Kansas – Danny and the Miracles – to the 1988 national title. Like Butler, KU played that game near home...less than an hour away in Kansas City.
  • With a win Monday, Butler would match the total number of tourney wins it had in school history (6-8) entering this tournament.
  • Tom Izzo's 2-4 record in national semifinal games is tied with Denny Crum for the worst all-time with a minimum of five games coached.
  • In his sterling NCAA tourney career, this was Izzo’s first tournament loss decided by five points or fewer. He’d previously been 6-0 in those situations.
  • The 50 points were the fewest ever scored by an Izzo-coached MSU team in the NCAA tournament. That’s a span of 47 games.
Raymar MorganAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesFoul trouble limited Michigan State's Raymar Morgan to 23 minutes.

INDIANAPOLIS -- It didn't take Michigan State forward Draymond Green very long to come up for an answer as to why the Spartans had so many problems scoring in Saturday night's 52-50 loss to Butler in the national semifinals of the NCAA tournament at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"One thing that made it tough was not having Raymar," Green said.

Michigan State forward Raymar Morgan was saddled by foul trouble early and often against the Bulldogs. Morgan came into the game as the Spartans leading scorer with 11.5 points per game, but he finished with only four points on 2-for-7 shooting in 23 minutes.

"I think he could have caused a mismatch for them," Green said. "He was never able to get into a groove with the foul trouble."

Morgan, a 6-foot-8 senior from Canton, Ohio, never had a chance after he picked up two fouls in a 26-second span early in the first half. He left the court with 15:25 to play. He returned to the floor with 12:41 to play and picked up his third foul about 2.5 minutes later. He didn't play in the final eight minutes of the first half.

Morgan picked up his third foul after Butler's Willie Veasley pulled down an offensive rebound.

"They called the foul on me," Morgan said. "The refereeing is out of my hands. You've just got to play regardless of the calls. But I personally didn't think the foul was on me. Who knows? Maybe it was. I don't know."

It didn't matter what Morgan believed happened, because he was still sitting on MSU's bench. He picked up his fourth foul with 12:38 left to play and sat another four minutes on the bench.

"It's disappointing, but my teammates did a great job trying to pick me up," Morgan said. "Their effort was unbelievable for us to stay in the game and have a chance to win and only lose by two."

It was a disappointing finish to Morgan's college career. In Michigan State's 89-72 loss to North Carolina in the 2009 national championship game at Ford Field in Detroit, Morgan scored four points on 1-for-2 shooting.

"I think a couple of players let [the fouls] get to them," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. "Raymar did. He really let it get to him early and that's not good. That's something I'll learn from."

Michigan State's starting frontcourt of Morgan, forward Delvon Roe and center Derrick Nix combined to score only eight points on 4-for-12 shooting.

"We're going to do a better job next year," Izzo said. "You think our 'war drill' is something now? Next year, it's going to be fistfighting because I'm going to make sure my guys are never, ever, ever, ever physically beaten out of a game again. And I thought tonight we were."

Butler's Nored gets redemption

April, 3, 2010
Ronald NoredAP Photo/Michael ConroyRonald Nored, a 61.2 percent free-throw shooter, knocked down two when it counted most.
INDIANAPOLIS -- With 28 seconds left in Saturday night's national semifinals game against Michigan State, Butler guard Ronald Nored watched in disbelief as his layup spun in and out of the basket at Lucas Oil Stadium.

"I don't know how that one came out," Nored said.

The Butler guard, who is known more for his defense than his offense, didn't have to wait long for redemption in the Bulldogs' 52-50 victory over the Spartans, their 25th consecutive win.

After Michigan State's Draymond Green missed a short jumper with 23 seconds left, Nored grabbed the rebound and was fouled by Green with 6.1 seconds to play.

Nored, a 61.2-percent foul shooter this season, had missed nine of 12 foul shots in the previous four NCAA tournament games. He made three of his first four attempts against the Spartans.

[+] EnlargeRonald Nored
AP Photo/Darron CummingsRonald Nored is known more for his defense than his offense.
With a crowd of more than 71,000 fans watching him, Nored calmly made both foul shots to give the Bulldogs a 52-49 lead.

"I'm smiling," Nored said. "My teammates were smiling. The crowd was pulling for me. Why not knock them down?"

Nored did and the Bulldogs advanced to Monday night's national championship game against the winner of Saturday night's semifinals game between Duke and West Virginia.

"I just thought they were going to go in," Nored said. "I've been practicing all week, practicing for the last few weeks to knock 'em in just because I've been so terrible in the first five games."

Nored, from Homewood, Ala., went 1-for-7 from the foul line in Butler's 77-59 victory over UTEP in the first round of the NCAA tournament on March 18. Two days later, he went 2-for-5 on free throws in a 54-52 win over Murray State in the second round.

Nored didn't take a foul shot in Butler's previous two NCAA games: a 63-59 win over No. 1-seeded Syracuse in the West Regional semifinals and 63-56 upset of No. 2-seeded Kansas State in the finals.

Still, Nored said he was confident when he walked to the foul line in the final seconds against Michigan State.

"I did my routine, took a deep breath, knocked it in," Nored said. "My teammates believed in me. My coach believed in me. That's all it was."

Nored said he spent extra time this week with Butler assistant Micah Shrewsberry to improve his technique. Nored shot hundreds of foul shots at Butler's fabled Hinkle Fieldhouse this week.

"I saw a picture of me shooting free throws in warmpus," Nored said. "I was short. I shot so many short. I just wanted to kind of get my elbow under and just finish high, and then flick my wrist. It looks like I'm aiming it. It feels like I'm aiming it rather than shooting it. Coach Shrewsberry was working with me on finishing through and finishing high."

Thanks to Nored's two clutch free throws, the Bulldogs have never been higher.
Shelvin MackBob Donnan/US PresswireCramps limited Shelvin Mack throughout the game, but Butler still advanced.

INDIANAPOLIS -- Two of Butler's starters -- forward Matt Howard and guard Shelvin Mack -- were receiving medical treatment after the Bulldogs' 52-50 victory over Michigan State at Lucas Oil Stadium on Saturday night.

Mack, a sophomore from Lexington, Ky., played only eight minutes in the second half because of cramping in his legs. Howard, a junior from Connersville, Ind., was groggy after hitting his head midway through the second half.

Butler coach Brad Stevens said Mack was being treated for dehydration, and doctors were checking Howard's awareness after the game. Stevens didn't know if both players would be available for Monday night's NCAA national championship game.

"We'll know more tomorrow after our medical staff and trainers look at [them]," Stevens said. "Hopefully those guys are available. If they're not, then somebody is going to have to step in and play well in their place."

Mack scored 12 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first half, including a 3-pointer with 36 seconds left that tied the score at 28 at the half. Mack scored only two points in the second half.

Howard was hurt after Butler's Ronald Nored and Michigan State's Austin Thornton collided under the basket with 9:24 to go. Howard stayed on the court for a couple of minutes after hitting his head, but left the game and appeared to be sluggish while sitting on the bench.

"We actually thought he was OK," Stevens said. "He played for a couple minutes, but then he came over and said he wasn't feeling good."

Howard eventually returned to the game and finished with four points in 15 minutes.

Nored said he was confident Howard and Mack would be ready to go against the Duke-West Virginia winner in Monday night's championship game.

"I know they're going to be fine," Nored said. "They're tough and I think they'll be fine."

MSU-Butler instant analysis

April, 3, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Butler is going to the NCAA tournament final. Read that sentence again. Still, 10 minutes after Gordon Hayward walked off the Lucas Oil court with a big wave and an even bigger smile to the Butler fans, it still barely seems plausible. But it happened. And here's how:

HOW THE GAME WAS WON: Butler's style prevailed. Again. The Bulldogs have had a simple formula for winning games in this NCAA tournament -- slow the game down, force teams to make shots over you, prevent penetration with help, get defensive rebounds, force turnovers, grind out a win. It worked against Syracuse. It worked against Kansas State. And it worked against Michigan State.

The Spartans kept turnovers at a minimum for much of the first half, but that didn't last in the second -- the Spartans committed 16 total turnovers -- and once Michigan State stopped hitting outside shots, the game began to fit the exact archetype Butler has thrived on all tournament long. From the 9:24 to the 3:46 marks in the second half, both teams combined for four points. Butler went more than 10 minutes without a field goal. Michigan State had their chances. Despite all that offensive impotence, the late opportunities were there. The Spartans just couldn't convert. And so they became the fifth team to score fewer than 60 points in an NCAA tournament game against Butler this year and the fifth team to fall by the wayside in Butler's magical run to the final game on Monday night. Amazing.

TURNING POINT: Butler looked shaky. The Bulldogs couldn't get anything to fall. Hayward had cooled off. And star guard Shelvin Mack was suffering from cramps in his hamstrings that kept him on the sideline throughout. It was 48-46, and the Spartans were coming; at this point, all that momentum, all that grind-it-out brilliance, looked ready to evaporate with a few unfortunate possessions.

And then Shawn Vanzant made a play. He drove baseline, found Gordon Hayward open on the corner baseline -- just the shot the Bulldogs needed -- and hit him. But Hayward's shot missed, causing a scrum under the hoop. Vanzant not only rebounded the ball, he managed to whip a perfect little pass to Hayward -- who had the presence of mind to leave his spot in the corner and cut furiously to the hoop -- which Hayward finished despite contact from MSU's Draymond Green. The basket gave Butler a four-point lead with 1:36 lead, a deficit Michigan State would never fully close again, eventually losing 52-50.

PLAYER OF THE GAME: Gordon Hayward -- 19 points, nine rebounds, two blocks, two steals. You probably don't need me to explain this, but I will anyway. Not only did Hayward take and make the majority of his team's shots throughout a low-scoring slugfest, he made the key plays down the stretch -- the above layup, and a crucial block on Green with eight seconds remaining and his team up by two -- that sealed the win. Hayward's story, the three-star recruit who took his small in-state school to the biggest stage in college basketball, is already incredible. It added another worthy chapter tonight.

PLAYER OF THE GAME II: Durrell Summers -- 14 points, 10 rebounds, 6-of-12 shooting. Summers' suddenly clicking play was one of the main reasons Michigan State made this unlikely and thoroughly admirable run to the Final Four, and while Summers is no doubt disappointed with the result, at least he can take solace in the fact that this tournament helped rid him of the "inconsistent" label. He was good all the time.

STAT OF THE GAME: Several stats of the game, so let's just jumble them all together.

50 -- the number of points Michigan State scored, making it the fifth team in this tournament to fall short of the 60-point barrier against Butler.
16 -- Michigan State's turnovers, nine of which came in the second half.
6 -- the number of offensive rebounds Michigan State grabbed all game.
55.6 -- Michigan State's free-throw percentage.
30.6 -- Butler's field goal percentage, a testament to how this team wins. It's like they don't need to score. Whoa, man. Whoa.

INJURY BLUES: Mack missed much of Butler's victorious second half with cramps. In the postgame, Brad Stevens didn't know whether he would be able to play on Monday night or not. It goes without saying that Butler's chances of completing this fairy tale run are significantly diminished if Mack's cramps don't improve.

RAYMAR'S NO GOOD VERY BAD NIGHT: Raymar Morgan missed much of the first half with foul trouble. Then, when Tom Izzo was upset with his play early in the second half, he sat some more. Then, with 12:38 left, Morgan was called for his fourth foul -- yet another unnecessary bit of contact that happened approximately 80 feet from Michigan State's basket. Even worse, the foul was Michigan State's seventh, which put Butler into the bonus. Morgan's absence in this game left Michigan State without a good option for stopping Hayward, and it made the Spartans far less balanced on offense. This is the second straight year Morgan has disappeared in the biggest game of his team's season.

Final: Butler 52, Michigan State 50

April, 3, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Quick thoughts on Butler’s historic win over Michigan State:

  • I love how calm and cool Butler coach Brad Stevens was when he walked over to shake hands with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo. He had his left hand in his pocket like he was going for a Sunday stroll.

  • How many other teams bring the dog and have it sit on the court after a big win like this?

  • Butler won this game with Shelvin Mack dealing with cramps for most of the 40 minutes, going in and out of the lineup.

  • The biggest play of the game had to be Shawn Vanzant getting an offensive rebound and feeding Gordon Hayward for a bucket, giving the Bulldogs a 50-46 lead with 1:36 to play. Butler struggled most of the game to get offensive rebounds.

  • Michigan State never got its offense going after quick 3s by Korie Lucious to start the game.

  • Michigan State was fortunate to get to the Final Four without Kalin Lucas. Great ending for the Spartans as once again Tom Izzo does a phenomenal job.

  • Ronald Nored made a huge steal late in the game and two key free throws. Butler did what it needed to do at the line to finish this game.

  • How about the Horizon League? This will do wonders for its national profile.

  • Sure the game was dull at times, a defensive grind, but it still had drama at the end. That’s fine. I never thought it would be a highlight-reel contest.

  • Hayward is a stud who will be a high pick in the NBA draft.

  • Butler is playing for the national title and it's no fluke.

  • Wow.

Can Butler hold on?

April, 3, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- Hometown favorite Butler has a 47-43 lead over Michigan State with less than six minutes to go in Saturday night's NCAA tournament national semifinals game at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Can the Bulldogs close it out? Here are a few things to watch:

  • After Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack carried the Bulldogs in the first half, junior forward Matt Howard and senior guard Willie Veasley are helping in the second half. Howard went to the bench and appears to be a little bit wobbly after a collision under the basket.
  • How much do the Spartans miss sophomore guard Kalin Lucas, who is sidelined with a ruptured Achilles tendon? Michigan State has turned the ball over 14 times, and the Bulldogs have converted them into 19 points. The Spartans have seven turnovers this half; Butler has turned it over only once in the second half.
  • After sizzling starts, both teams are struggling to score. Neither team had made a field goal for more than five minutes at the 6:04 mark.

Photoblog: Taking one for the team

April, 3, 2010
Delvon RoeAndy Lyons/Getty ImagesMichigan State's Delvon Roe charges into Ronald Nored of the Butler in the first half. The teams finished the half tied at 28.

Photoblog: Butler's Shelvin Mack on move

April, 3, 2010
Shelvin MackBob Donnan/US PresswireButler guard Shelvin Mack has 12 points at the half.

MSU-Butler halftime analysis

April, 3, 2010
INDIANAPOLIS -- We're halfway through what's thus far been an up-and-down game -- a torrid start followed by a major drought in the closing stretches. Fittingly enough, we're tied at 28. Here's some instant reaction and a look ahead to the second half:

HOW THE HALF WAS WON: Butler's guards couldn't contain Korie Lucious and Durrell Summers. The Bulldogs have been shutting down great guards throughout the tournament, holding Syracuse's Andy Rautins and Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente to minimal contributions in low-scoring games. Not so in the first half tonight. Lucious and Summers were able to find open looks, and for much of the half, they knocked them down.

TURNING POINT: With two minutes left in the first half, it looked like Butler was starting to fade. They couldn't get a bucket, and they had just been victimized by a perfect Lucious bounce pass through their defense, which Summers finished in stride for an easy layup and a 28-23 lead. But with 30 seconds left, Shelvin Mack caught the ball on the wing in the break and iced a 3, the Bulldogs' first since the four-minute mark, and their first non-Hayward bucket since there were eight minutes remaining.

PLAYER OF THE HALF: Gordon Hayward, Butler -- 13 points, three rebounds. Hayward's was 5-of-9 shooting -- including a barrage of 3s and one spinning fadeaway that had to make the NBA scouts in the house drool -- keeping Butler close throughout the first half. The Bulldogs weren't particularly bad from the field. But if Hayward hadn't made a few key 3s, the Spartans could have opened a lead in their torrid first few minutes.

PLAYER OF THE HALF II: Lucious of Michigan State -- eight points, one rebound, three assists, one steal. The aforementioned Lucious didn't just score and needle gorgeous bounce passes through Butler's vaunted defense. He also -- and most importantly -- didn't turn the ball over. Butler has been great at turning its opponents over in its run to the Final Four, but Lucious handled the ball well and Michigan State didn't waste any possessions against the grind-it-out Bulldogs.

STAT OF THE HALF: Offensive rebounds. Butler was never going to dominate Michigan State on the offensive glass, but the Bulldogs were almost invisible after their shots hit the rim. Butler grabbed three of their misses, good for a paltry 17.6 percent from the field. Butler doesn't need to grab many rebounds; Stevens prefers his guys get back and set up that difficult defense rather than crash the glass on the offensive end. But it wouldn't hurt for Butler to preserve a few more of their possessions in the second half.

STAT OF THE HALF II: Fouls. There were lots of them for both teams, a combined 16 total. Michigan State committed nine of those fouls, and Raymar Morgan got three of them, an affliction that caused him to miss much of the first half. The referees seem dedicated to keeping this game relatively free of overwhelming physicality, so Morgan will have to be especially careful in the early moments of the second.

1. Hayward has to keep attacking the rim. Michigan State is struggling to match up with him, and with Morgan in foul trouble there's no one that should be able to stop him.
2. You too, Shelvin Mack. Don't settle.
3. Butler has to figure out a way to close down on Lucious, Summers, and the rest of Michigan State's athletic guards better. Butler got here by dominating its opponents on the perimeter, by making everything difficult, by forcing turnovers. That hasn't happened tonight.

1. Get lots of help on Hayward. You don't want to give up too many open looks, but rotating away from any non-Mack shooters in Butler's lineup is a pretty safe bet. Smart rotations could negate Butler's most effective player without revealing too many holes elsewhere.
2. Keep hitting shots. Simple, but true. It's hard to get good interior looks on Butler's defense. The help is too good. If the shots stop falling, some of that vaunted offensive rebounding wouldn't hurt.
3. Attack Matt Howard. Butler has been able to play without Howard in the past, but his rebounding would be a major boost on offense, and if MSU can keep him foul trouble, they can continue to dominate the glass.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Some thoughts at the half of Butler-Michigan State:

  • I thought Butler would have more of a home-court advantage. Nope. There are certainly plenty of Butler folks, but it doesn’t sound like the Bulldogs have an overwhelming advantage.
  • I’d love for the NCAA to alternate the seating in each section so we would have more balanced cheering. I don’t like seeing one whole side sitting down during the game.
  • Gordon Hayward is the best pro prospect on the court. The Butler forward has a sweet stroke on 3s and had an NBA-level turnaround jumper. He has kept Butler in the game.
  • Butler’s Matt Howard can’t stay out of foul trouble. He picked up his second foul only six minutes into the game.
  • Michigan State’s Draymond Green has quite a skill set. He can make the face-the-basket shot and put the ball on the court and drive to the hoop.
  • If Durrell Summers and Korie Lucious, who started out with a pair of 3s, can make shots in the second half, the Spartans should win. That’s a big "if" though.
  • Butler has to get more production from other players beside Hayward and Shelvin Mack.
  • Butler’s offensive rebounding has been awful. The Bulldogs went chunks of time without one in the first half. MSU is too good on the glass. Butler’s one-shot offense will only take it so far.
  • Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan picked up three first-half fouls. Had he stayed in the game I’m not so sure the outcome would have been much different. The Spartans got quality play from Garrick Sherman.
  • Mack’s 3-pointer to tie the game with 36 seconds left in the first half energized a crowd that had become somewhat listless.
  • I love that I can look to my left and see clouds and blue sky. I’ve become a fan of Lucas Oil Stadium for college hoops. Still want to see this game in Conseco for the full-effect atmosphere.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Michigan State's Korie Lucious has already done what Syracuse and Kansas State couldn't do against Butler in last week's West Regional in Salt Lake City.

Lucious, a sophomore from Milwaukee, opened Saturday night's national semifinal at Lucas Oil Stadium with 3-pointers on the Spartans' first two possessions. He scored eight of Michigan State's first 22 points in the first half. MSU had a 22-20 lead with 7:26 to play in the half.

But the Spartans got a pretty good scare when Lucious came up limping with about 16 1/2 minutes to go in the half. MSU trainers examined his right ankle on the bench, but Lucious went back into the game a couple of minutes later.

Michigan State is already playing without leading scorer Kalin Lucas, who ruptured his Achilles tendon in the Spartans' second-round game against Maryland. He averaged 14.8 points in 33 games.

A big reason Butler became the first team to advance to the Final Four in its hometown since UCLA in 1972 was the defensive play of its backcourt.

Guards Shelvin Mack and Ronald Nored shut down Syracuse's Andy Rautins in the first half of a 63-59 upset of the No. 1-seeded Orange in the West Regional semifinals, and then held Kansas State's Denis Clemente without a field goal in the first half of a 63-56 upset of the No. 2-seeded Wildcats in the regional finals.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Well, it's finally here. The Final Four. Indianapolis -- and the thousands of fans that have already filled most of the 73,000 seats in Lucas Oil's gigantic interior -- is every bit as excited as you'd assume.

I wasn't in Detroit for last year's Final Four, but the talk of the town this year is how much more alive this year's event feels. It's easy to see where that sentiment comes from. The weather has been great (it snowed in Michigan last year), the fans, Butler's especially, are out in full force, and the hordes of hoops heads that have descended on the city have found a town that embraces the Final Four with the same alacrity as it embraces all things basketball. It's been a wonderful experience so far. And we're just getting started.

The atmosphere aside, there is the small matter of tonight's two games, the first of which, Butler vs. Michigan State, tips off at 6:05 ET. Some assorted thoughts:

  • Expect a low-scoring game. Butler has shown an ability to hold opponents to low point totals throughout this tournament; Brad Stevens' team has yet to allow the opposition to score 60 points in any of the four games it won to get here. Michigan State has been shooting the ball better in the tournament than it has all season, but the Spartans still aren't near the offense of Syracuse or Kansas State. It should be low-scoring to the very end.
  • Which means Michigan State might be well-served by trying to get runouts on the break as much as possible. Butler loves to grind out games. It loves to play a slow style. With the exception of Butler star Gordon Hayward, the Spartans are the more athletic from top to bottom, and that speed and athleticism could get them the sort of transition baskets that make scoring against Butler a considerably easier proposition.
  • Meanwhile, Butler has to block out. The Bulldogs are very, very good at keeping opponents off the offensive glass, but Michigan State just so happens to be one of the better teams in the country at grabbing its own misses. Offensive rebounding has received plenty of attention in the run-up to today's games (a decent portion of it from yours truly), but that's for good reason. It just might decide this game.
  • Speaking of Hayward, it will be fascinating to see how Hayward takes this stage. He's the most NBA-ready player at this Final Four, playing just a few miles from his hometown for an Indianapolis school that just so happened to get to its first Final Four ... in Indianapolis. That's a lot of pressure. There are a lot of people in this stadium. Does Hayward thrive on this? Does he shrink from the task? Butler doesn't necessarily need Hayward to shine to top Michigan State. But Hayward has the chance to become a household name -- a real-life Jimmy Chitwood for the modern era. Does he take that opportunity?

College Basketball Live: Final Four

April, 3, 2010