Friday, March 18, 2011
Sometimes, a game-winning play is craftily designed and enacted with precision by each of the five players on the floor.
And sometimes, the decisive basket is the result of an enormous amount of luck.
The play that Butler used to beat Old Dominion 60-58 on Thursday fell squarely into the latter category. Afterward, the Bulldogs made no apologies — especially because their previous foray into the NCAA tournament ended when a last-second shot failed to go their way.
Matt Howard’s tip-in at the buzzer carried the eighth-seeded Bulldogs past ODU and into the second round. The play was not what Butler coach Brad Stevens had in mind when he sent his team to the floor with the score tied and 32 seconds left.
Guard Shawn Vanzant was driving to the basket from the right side when he lost his footing and threw the ball toward the rim. Teammate Andrew Smith slapped the ball out of the air off the backboard, and Howard went up with his right hand and put the ball in from the left side an instant before time expired.
“We were fortunate to win,” Stevens said. “It didn’t look pretty and that’s not exactly the way you want it to end by any means, but they were in the right spots.”
A year ago, Butler’s magical run to the NCAA championship game ended with a narrow miss from halfcourt at the buzzer against Duke. In this game, the Bulldogs got the bounce they needed.
“A lot of credit has got to go to Andrew, who made a great play to keep it alive,” Howard said. “I tried to get it up as quickly as possible, and fortunately we had just enough time.”
Howard and Shelvin Mack each scored 15 points for Butler (24-9), which lost to YSU earlier this season.
Frank Hassell led Old Dominion (27-7) with 20 points. Hassell was in the lane during the final play, but couldn’t get his hand on the ball.
“Howard came across and got it and threw it in on me,” Hassell said. “Lucky bounce for a good player.”