INDIANAPOLIS -- Gordon Hayward found himself in the right place -- just in time.
The sophomore swingman emerged from a mad scramble by scooping up a loose ball underneath the basket and putting in a layup Saturday to give Butler (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) a 69-68 victory over Xavier that took a stopwatch to sort out.
In a bizarre ending, officials ruled the clock had stopped inadvertently for 1.3 seconds during Butler's final possession. During the replay review, which lasted more than five minutes, they used a stopwatch to determine how much time to run off. They counted Hayward's basket but ran the remaining 1.2 seconds off, taking away Xavier's last chance to win.
"For us, we were hoping that Hayward didn't have enough time to release the ball to end the game," Xavier coach Chris Mack said. "Obviously, Butler was hoping there was enough time on the clock. It turned out that there was enough time to end the game in Butler's advantage."
Mack waved his hand in disgust after hearing the decision and was escorted off the floor. Dejected Xavier players were quickly directed to their locker room by Butler athletic director Barry Collier, the former Bulldogs coach, and in the stands, minor fights broke out. Butler officials said no arrests were made.
Outside the Xavier locker room, a water fountain was torn off the wall, and although Mack contended the clock had stopped two other times during the final minute, he faulted his own players for their inability to seal the game in the final 37 seconds.
"My message to them wasn't to blame the officiating," Mack said. "No. 1, with 30 seconds left, get the ball in bounds and get fouled, don't get tied up. The second thing is, I think Butler took at least three or four shots in the final possession and we didn't have the awareness, the toughness or the decisiveness to end the game with a loose-ball rebound or a ball on the floor."
The agonizing loss wiped out a brilliant second-half performance by Xavier (6-4), which rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit. The Musketeers shot 69.6 percent from the field in the second half and led for most of the final 20 minutes.
Hayward countered with 22 points and 14 rebounds, and the Bulldogs (8-3) took advantage of every Xavier miscue in the final minute to end a seven-game home losing streak against the Musketeers that dated to 1989.
It all started with 38.5 seconds left and Butler trailing 68-65.
Bulldogs guard Shelvin Mack drew a foul on Terrell Holloway and made two free throws. On the ensuing inbounds pass, Xavier gave the ball to guard Mark Lyons, and Hayward ran over and grabbed the ball, forcing a tie up.
Possession arrow to Butler.
With three timeouts remaining, Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens elected to let his team play.
The result: Butler twice chased down rebounds off missed 3-pointers and barely got to a loose ball in the backcourt that officials ruled was tipped by Xavier.
"I thought the best thing that happened was that ball got knocked loose because I knew we were going to get a good look," Stevens said of the near-turnover.
Willie Veasley took the second 3 from the left corner, leaving it short and setting off the scramble that ended with the ball in Hayward's hands and eventually his basket.
Then came the five minutes that tried everyone's emotions.
Several times, Stevens came down the court to talk to an official. Mack spent time trying to huddle his players, two of whom eventually walked out to the lane, and the Butler players didn't know what was going on.
"It was stressful being out there," Hayward said. "Most of us thought, how much time is going to be on the clock?"
The answer: None.
The officials determined the ball left Hayward's hands with 1.8 seconds to go, beating what should have been the buzzer by 0.5 seconds, and falling through the net with 1.2 seconds left. Game over.
"I haven't seen a replay yet but based on what I'm told, it sounds like they got it right," Stevens said. "And that's the most important thing, getting it right."
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