Butler, last year’s national runner-up, fended off stubborn Florida State 67-64 in the semifinals of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
After squandering a double-digit lead, the Bulldogs (8-4) rode a 20-6 surge in the second half to earn a spot in the championship game against Washington State.
Butler hit six of its 10 3-pointers in the second half, four coming in the decisive stretch, and held off a Seminole rally in the final minutes.
Forward Matt Howard led Butler with 19 points and nine rebounds. Guard Shelvin Mack went 4-for-5 from 3-point range in the second half and finished with 17 points.
Florida State forward Chris Singleton hit six 3-pointers and led the Seminoles (10-3) with a game-high 28 points with nine rebounds.
Florida State committed 11 turnovers and missed its first nine 3-point attempts, yet went into halftime trailing by just a bucket at 21-19.
Butler didn’t fare much better than the Seminoles from the field, shooting just 29.6 percent (8-for-27). The Bulldogs opened a 10-point lead early on, but couldn’t pull away and Florida State scored the last eight points, closing the half with a 3-pointer by Michael Snaer just before the buzzer.
The Seminoles took its first lead at 23-21 on Singleton’s first 3-pointer of the game. But the Bulldogs moved ahead on a Mack 3-pointer to start the run that gave Butler control.
Singleton scored 15 of FSU’s 19 points in a 7 minute stretch to keep the Seminoles in contention and a 3-pointer by Derwin Kitchen cut the Butler lead to 60-56 with 50.4 seconds left.
But Howard came up with a key offensive rebound and a steal in the final seconds and the Bulldogs made enough free throws to hang on and send Florida State to the third-place game to face Baylor.