POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 26, 2010
Butler has been there and done it. Washington State is still en route.
Behind the play of their veterans, the Bulldogs separated from the up-and-coming Cougars in the second half of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic championship game and won 84-68 last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Many of the same players who were a halfcourt heave away from a national championship against Duke last season brought their experience to bear against WSU in an entirely different, but nonetheless critical tournament. The second-year DHC offered a chance for a couple marquee wins, and Butler seized them.
Plenty of people fell off the Butler bandwagon after a 4-4 start. With five straight wins heading into Horizon League play, the Bulldogs (9-4) look like their perennially strong selves again.
The Bulldogs led by just two at halftime, but seized control of the game with an 18-2 push coming out of the break. Two chief attempts by WSU (10-2) to come back were denied, emphatically.
ALL-TOURNEY TEAM» F — Matt Howard, Butler (MVP)
» G — Shelvin Mack, Butler
» G — Klay Thompson, Washington State
» G — LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor
» F — Chris Singleton, Florida State
Butler senior forward Matt Howard had 14 points and 11 rebounds, garnering tourney MVP honors, and junior guard Shelvin Mack had a team-high 20 points. But it was senior guard Zach Hahn who had the most important bucket, a 3-pointer with 2:05 left to stem the Cougars' final push.
WSU junior guard Klay Thompson had 31 points on 10-for-18 shooting, but no other Cougars hit double figures.
Cougars coach Ken Bone was disappointed with his team's energy to start the second half, but felt the strong DHC field helped prepare his team for the Pac-10 season.
"We played against some really good teams," Bone said. "Hopefully just the competitive level has helped us prepare for USC and UCLA. ... (Butler) played well, and I thought they played maybe their best game of the tournament tonight."
After the final horn, there were plenty of wide smiles on center court from the victors and in the stands from about 75 Bulldogs fans who made the journey from Indianapolis. But director of basketball operations Darnell Archey had one of the largest grins.
Last time Butler was in Hawaii, in 2002, the Bulldogs fell to the Rainbow Warriors in the Rainbow Classic championship game in overtime after leading by as many as 20 points. Archey was a shooting guard on that team.
"I remember Hawaii eight years ago just like I did this week. Beautiful, sunshine," Archey said. "The only thing different, is that we got a championship this time."
"Better players," he replied with a laugh. "I think the team has just developed. You know, we were 4-4 16 days ago," Archey said. "A lot of people had written us off. We really came back (through) our cohesiveness and togetherness and just being a tough, gritty team."
Forwards Chris Singleton and Bernard James posted double-doubles to help the Seminoles claim third place.
Singleton had 17 points, 10 rebounds and three blocks, and James had 15 points and 10 boards for the Florida State (11-3), which held on in the final minutes.
Baylor (8-3) lost for the third time in four games since a 7-0 start to the season. Guard LaceDarius Dunn had 23 points for the Bears.
Jordan Mackie led the Toreros (3-10) in taking seventh place with 14 points, and guard Devin Ginty hit five free throws in the final 26 seconds to preserve the win.
Utah (7-6) forward Will Clyburn led all scorers with 19 points on 6-for-10 shooting.
|Rainbow Warriors (9-3)|
Key -- fg-a: field goals made-attempted; ft-a: free throws made-attempted; rb: rebounds; pf: personal fouls; pts: total points; a: assists; to: turnovers; min: minutes played.
Halftime -- Hawaii 42, Mississippi State 57
3-point goals -- MSU 6-25 (Johnson 2-8, Steele 2-5, Augustus 1-7, Benock 1-3, Bryant 0-1, Smith 0-1), Hawaii 6-24 (Johnson 2-7, Barnes 2-6, Thompson 1-9, Thomas 1-2).
Steals -- MSU 8 (Augustus 2, Bryant 2, Benock, Johnson, Smith, Steele), Hawaii 4 (Thompson 2, Miles, Wiseman). Blocked shots -- MSU 3 (Augustus, Johnson, Lewis), Hawaii 1 (Thomas). Officials -- Darron George, Winston Stith, Ryan Wells. A-- 6694.