NCAA Tournament: Butler's Defense Sends Murray State Packing, 54-52

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Butler 54, Murray State 52: Last-Second Defensive Stand Ends Racers' Cinderella Hopes

San Jose, CA (Sports Network) - Gordon Hayward had 12 points and seven rebounds and forced a turnover on the game's final possession, allowing fifth- seeded Butler to escape HP Pavilion with a slim 54-52 decision over 13th- seeded Murray State in second-round play of the West Region.

Matt Howard hit 1-of-2 free throws with 17.5 seconds remaining to give the Bulldogs a 54-52 lead. The Racers didn't call timeout and swung the ball to Isaiah Canaan at the top of the key.

Canaan dribbled precious seconds off the clock before deciding to give the ball up to first-round hero Danero Thomas near halfcourt.

Thomas, who hit a game-winning jumper to upset Vanderbilt on Thursday, never got a chance to duplicate the feat, as Hayward tipped the ball into the backcourt and corralled the loose ball as the buzzer sounded.

Ronald Nored finished with a game-high 15 points to go with six assists for Butler (30-4), which won for the 22nd straight time despite shooting just 36 percent from the field.

The Bulldogs, who have now reached the Sweet 16 three times in the last eight years, will next face the winner of the Gonzaga/Syracuse contest.

Canaan hit all four of his three-point tries on his way to a team-high 14 points for Murray State (31-5), which was trying to advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time in school history.

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NCAA Tournament, 3:20 P.M.: 13-Seed Murray State Goes For Another Upset Vs. Butler

Preview courtesy of Sports Network.

As one of the many giant killers from first-round action of the 72nd annual NCAA Tournament, the Murray State Racers try to replicate their magic moment from two days ago as they challenge the Butler Bulldogs at HP Pavilion in San Jose, California this afternoon.

Murray State, the 13th seed in the West Regional, whipped up on the rest of the Ohio Valley Conference this season and used that experience to take care of Vanderbilt on Thursday afternoon. In what was a tight game throughout, the Racers made their way into the second round of the tourney when Danero Thomas knocked down a jumper at the buzzer to give the squad a thrilling 66-65 win over the Commodores. The win was just the second all-time in 15 tries in the tournament for MSU and the second in five all-time meetings with Vandy.

As for the fifth-seeded Bulldogs, a squad that brings back all five starters from a year ago, they managed to knot their record in the tournament at an even 9-9 with their 77-59 romp over UTEP two days ago. Butler, which outscored the Miners by 24 in the second half, is trying to reach the "Sweet 16" for the third time in the last eight years.

The Bulldogs have been unstoppable the last three months, posting a perfect 18-0 record in Horizon League action and ripping off a nation-leading 21 consecutive victories overall since bowing to UAB three days before Christmas.

In terms of the all-time series between these two schools, Murray State records show the Racers with a 2-1 advantage, thanks to an 85-70 win back in 1976. The winner of today's matchup will face the winner of the Gonzaga/Syracuse contest in Salt Lake City next week.

Danero Thomas made a total of five field goals for the Racers two days ago, but it was his final shot attempt that propelled the team into the second round of the tournament. Thomas finished with 11 points, to go along with his six rebounds, three steals and three blocks, while Isacc Miles and B.J. Jenkins accounted for 17 and 14 points, respectively. The Racers ended up shooting better behind the three-point line (.467) than they did from the floor overall (.417), the squad converting a mere 9-of-17 at the charity stripe to keep things interesting. Jenkins who, in addition to getting beyond the cut in his finger from cutting down the net after the OVC Tournament also had to get beyond banging his right elbow on the floor early against the Commodores, is tops among the five double-digit scorers for the Racers with his 10.6 ppg, just ahead of Ivan Aska and Thomas who are both responsible for 10.4 ppg. Although he failed to reach his average two days ago, Tony Easley (10.1 ppg) continues to pay dividends for the squad with his 5.7 rpg and 93 blocked shots, both of which lead WSU on the season.

Butler started out the meeting with UTEP rather slow on Thursday, allowing the Miners to take a lead of seven points midway through the first half. However, the second half was a much different story as the Bulldogs got their act together by hitting not only 53.8 percent from the field, but also 10-of-19 behind the three-point line, en route to the 18-point victory. Shelvin Mack was on top of his game as he made good on 7-of-9 beyond the arc and 8-of-13 shots from the floor overall on the way to 25 points, followed by Gordon Hayward (13 points) and Matt Howard (11 points). Willie Veasley eased himself into the action with eight points and a team-best nine boards. Mack, who matched his and the team's scoring high two days ago, is right behind Hayward (15.3 ppg) overall on the season with his 14.2 ppg, thanks in large part to his 62 three-pointers. By comparison, Hayward tends to have his way in the paint where he is clearing a team-high 8.3 rpg, which allows the Bulldogs to top opponents on the glass by an average of almost four caroms per contest.

In a low-scoring game the Bulldogs have a huge advantage because that's the style of play that they are used to putting on the floor to begin with. Unless Murray State can find a little more magic this weekend, the thrill of the postseason might be gone for the group.

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