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Mutt-ugly performance by Butler

The Bulldogs shoot an NCAA record-worst field-goal percentage and fall short again

By Nancy Armour

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 11:39 a.m. HST, Apr 5, 2011

HOUSTON » Butler couldn’t go inside. It couldn’t score outside. Its shots were blocked all night long.

Forget the last-second heave.

When it came to winning this championship, the Bulldogs played down to their size.

Butler set a record for worst shooting percentage in the NCAA title game, a woeful 18.8 percent, and managed the second-fewest field goals, making only 12 baskets in its 53-41 loss to Connecticut last night.

It is the second straight year the Bulldogs (28-10) finish as runners-up after a 61-59 loss to Duke last year.

“You just hope the shots go in,” said senior Zach Hahn, who went 0-for-2 after giving Butler a big lift off the bench in the semifinals. “That’s how it’s been all tournament. Whenever we needed a big shot, somebody came up with it. I guess we just ran out of steam. Nobody could make ’em.”

Shelvin Mack, who averaged almost 22 points in the first five games in the tournament, was Butler’s only player to finish in double figures — and he managed only 13 points, on 4-for-15 shooting. Leading scorer Matt Howard made his only field goal about 5 minutes into the game, finishing with seven points on 1-for-13.

It was Howard’s fewest points since scoring six in the season opener against Marian. But he only played 23 minutes that night.


BUTLER (28-10) Howard 1-13 4-4 7, Smith 2-9 1-2 5, Mack 4-15 1-2 13, Vanzant 2-10 0-0 5, Stigall 3-11 0-0 9, Hahn 0-2 0-0 0, Nored 0-2 2-4 2, Hopkins 0-0 0-0 0, Marshall 0-2 0-2 0, Butcher 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 12-64 8-14 41.

CONNECTICUT (32-9) Olander 1-3 0-0 2, Smith 0-2 0-0 0, Oriakhi 5-6 1-1 11, Lamb 4-8 3-4 12, Walker 5-19 6-7 16, Beverly 1-2 0-0 2, Coombs-McDaniel 0-3 0-0 0, Giffey 1-3 2-2 4, Napier 1-6 2-2 4, Okwandu 1-3 0-0 2. Totals 19-55 14-16 53.

Halftime--Butler 22-19. 3-Point Goals--Butler 9-33 (Mack 4-11, Stigall 3-9, Vanzant 1-5, Howard 1-6, Hahn 0-1, Nored 0-1), UConn 1-11 (Lamb 1-2, Coombs-McDaniel 0-1, Giffey 0-1, Smith 0-1, Napier 0-2, Walker 0-4). Fouled Out--None. Rebounds--Butler 41 (Mack, Smith 9), UConn 53 (Oriakhi 11). Assists--Butler 5 (Vanzant 2), UConn 6 (Lamb, Napier 2). Total Fouls--Butler 17, Connecticut 15. A--70,376.

“This one is pretty frustrating, just personally,” the senior said. “I wish, from my standpoint, that I was able to give a little bit more to my team.”

The Bulldogs were hoping to reverse last year’s heartbreak, when Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Give little guys everywhere hope, too. After all, if a school with 4,500 students that plays in the Horizon League can win the national title, what’s stopping every other team playing in the midmajors?

Instead, Butler showed why the little guys have it so tough.

Butler had no answer for UConn’s big men inside. Alex Oriakhi, Tyler Olander and Charles Okwandu all stand 6-foot-9 or taller, and they treated the paint as if it was their turf and the Bulldogs were trespassing. They shoved them, bumped them and generally made life miserable for anyone who dared come close to the basket.

“Matt Howard, we told Alex, that, that right there, that’s your bone. You pick on that. You’re the one that we want right now with him,” Shabazz Napier said. “He played as hard as he can and disrupted a lot of shots tonight.”

When Butler did manage to get off a shot, the Huskies were there to swat it away. They finished with 10 blocks — tying an NCAA title-game record — and UConn finished with a 26-2 edge in the paint.

“I felt like we kept trying to go back inside,” Howard said. “We had quite a few pretty good looks. They just weren’t going in.”

They weren’t going in from anywhere else on the floor, either. All but three of Butler’s shots were from 3-point range, and the Bulldogs were 9-for-33 from beyond the arc. They had scoring droughts that lasted what seemed like an eternity.

Butler’s 41 points were 10 fewer than the worst showing in the shot-clock era in a championship game. (Michigan scored 51 in a loss to Duke in 1992), and the 18.8 percent shooting broke a record that had stood since 1941.

“That’s part of basketball. Sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t,” Ronald Nored said. “Tonight was just that night that it didn’t.”


18.8 12-64 Butler vs. Connecticut, April 4, 2011.
21.5 14-65 Washington St. vs. Wisconsin, March 29, 1941
23.4 15-64 Baylor vs. Kentucky, March 23, 1948
25.4 16-63 Wisconsin vs. Washington St., March 29, 1941
27.4 23-84 Loyola (IL) vs. Cincinnati, OT, March 23, 1963
28.8 23-80 Kansas St. vs. Kentucky, March 27, 1951
Source: Associated Press

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