Using a hard fought, physical effort, the Butler Bulldogs advanced to the Sweet Sixteen by defeating the Murray State Racers 54-52 Saturday afternoon in San Jose, California. The effort given by the hard-nosed canines from Indianapolis was one sure to have made Tony Hinkle himself smile. Butler showed why it has been able to sour to such a long winning streak, one that is now at 22 wins in a row, tops in the nation. This type of streak is why Butler believes it can make a claim for getting to the Final Four held right here in their own doghouse of Indianapolis. Butler guard Ronald Nored led all scorers with 15 points, while the gutsy guard/forward Gordon Hayward added 12 points and provided Butler with a sensational defensive play at the end of the game that sealed the deal for the Bulldogs.
The dogs jumped out to an early lead after both teams showed signs of nerves running rampant early on. Murray State then scored furiously, scoring 7 straight points, and eventually tying the game. Butler then went on a run of it’s own, creating an 8 point lead. Murray State then decided to be a pest, and promptly took the lead before halftime after Racers guard Isaiah Canaan stole a Butler pass which led to a go-ahead dunk. Canaan then followed up by nailing a 3-pointer at the buzzer before the half, giving the Racers a 4 point lead.
Things continued to go the way of the men of Murray, after the Racers scored the first bucket of the second half to go up by 6, before Butler’s Willie Veasley stroked a 3-pointer to cut the Racer lead to 3. Matt Howard, who was largely MIA in the game (scoring only 3 points), then proceeded to draw his 3rd and then 4th foul, thus leading to a seat on the Bulldog bench. Murray State took advantage of the big man’s absence and built a 7 point lead for themselves, before Butler turned on the defense and rallied to tie the game. The lead see-sawed back and forth throughout parts of the second half before Butler opened up a 6 point lead and then added to it, as Butler’s small lineup proved effective.
Murray State refused to go away, however, and eventually regained the lead. Butler decided they were not the type of pooches who lie down, and quickly tied the game with 1:08 remaining. On Butler’s next possession, Ronald Nored scored off the glass and was fouled, which ended up leading to a 3 point Butler lead. On the other end, Racers guard Isacc Miles drew a foul and was rewarded with two free-throws which he subsequently hit, bringing Murray State to within 1. After a double-team in the corner by the Racers caused Butler to call a timeout, Matt Howard was fouled and nailed one of two free-throws, giving Butler a 2 point lead with 17.5 seconds remaining. The play of the game occurred when Gordon Hayward made an incredible play to poke the ball away from Isaiah Canaan, which resulted in the ball rolling into the backcourt, along with Murray State’s Sweet Sixteen Hopes.
Butler’s victory puts them within two wins of a trip to their hometown of Indianapolis and the Final Four, a trip that would be the sweetest of all. For now, however, they will settle for a trip to Salt Lake City to take on the winner of the Syracuse-Gonzaga game that will be played tomorrow. Today’s game was wild. We should expect nothing less come next week. Butler, however, looks ready for the challenge. Who let the dogs out?