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Wisconsin mounted a furious comeback, but the hole Butler had put the Badgers in proved to be too much. Butler used strong defense to limit the Badgers on the offensive end to open the second half, taking a lead as big as 20 at one point. A furious rally brought the Badgers to within four with time running out, but it wasn't enough as Butler hung on to advance to the Elite Eight with a win.
With Wisconsin closing fast, Matt Howard made the play of the game for Butler. Following a missed Shelvin Mack free throw, Howard hustled for the rebound, snatching it away from the Badgers and drawing the foul. He hit both free throws to push the lead back to seven with just under 30 seconds to go, effectively sealing the game for the Bulldogs.
Matt Howard finished a team-high 18 points for the Bulldogs. Jordan Taylor led all scorers with 22 points, many of which came during the Badgers furious late rally. For much of the game, though, Butler held Taylor in check, frustrating him with hard-nosed defense.
Butler moves on to face Florida with a trip to the Final Four on the line on Saturday. An updated bracket can be found below.
No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 4 Kentucky, Friday at 9:45 p.m. on CBS
No. 2 UNC vs. No. 11 Marquette, Friday at 7:15 p.m. on CBS
No. 5 Arizona Wildcats def. No. 1 Duke Blue Devils, 99-77
No. 3 Connecticut Huskies def. No. 2 San Diego State, 74-67
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 12 Richmond Spiders, Friday at 7:27 p.m. on TBS
No. 10 Florida State Seminoles vs. No. 11 VCU Rams, Friday at 9:57 p.m. on TBS
No. 8 Butler def. No. 4 Wisconsin, 61-54
No. 2 Florida def. No. 3 BYU. Thursday, 84-73
The Wisconsin Badgers are climbing back into their Sweet 16 game against the Butler Bulldogs, using full-court, trapping defense to stymie the Bulldogs. The result was turnovers for Butler and easy buckets for Wisconsin as the Bulldogs were caught between running out the clock and scoring to ice the game.
Back-to-back steals by Tim Jarmusz resulted in easy lay-ins, one by Jarmusz and another by Josh Gasser. After another stop, Gus Johnson finally blew his top as Jordan Taylor, cold for much of the game, buried a deep three and began heating up.
Shelvin Mack finally stopped the bleeding for the Bulldogs, burying a step-back jumper to push the lead back out to six. After an empty possession for Wisconsin, Mack hit one of two free throws to put the Bulldogs up seven. But again it was Taylor answering, this time with another straight-away three to cut the lead to four.
Tune-in and catch the final moments as Butler leads Wisconsin, 56-52.
All of a sudden, the Wisconsin offense has come alive, triggered by a strong effort on the defensive end of the floor. Wisconsin found itself on a 6-0 run, and 11-2 overall, to nearly cut the deficit to single-digits. But, again, Butler answered, with Matt Howard hitting two free throws to stop the bleeding.
Butler did run into some trouble on the defense end when Shelvin Mack picked up his fourth foul with just over five minutes to play. Mack has been big for the Bulldogs on the offensive end, scoring 10 points for Butler before sitting with foul trouble.
Jordan Taylor broke out of his funk for Wisconsin, at least temporarily, but has struggled from the free throw line all night. Taylor has a team-high 15 points, but has hit just 7-11 from the line, an uncharacteristic number.
With just under four minutes to go, Butler holds a 12-point lead, 52-40.
Wisconsin could do nothing right on the offensive end for the first 10 minutes of the second half, hitting just 1-16 shots from the floor to open the half. Jordan Taylor finally snapped out of his slump and, perhaps, broke the Badgers out of their funk, taking a back-door lob and laying it in for Wisconsin's fourth and fifth points of the half. The bucket appeared to give Taylor confidence as he buried a deep three the next time down to cut the Butler lead to 15.
But, as they have all night, the Bulldogs found another answer, this time in the form of Matt Howard's inside game. Howard connected on a quick lay-in to push the Butler lead back to 17 at 49-32.
As it stands, Wisconsin can't hit contested shots, can't hit open shots and, generally, can't score. With eight minutes to go, Wisconsin is in deep trouble as Butler has complete control up 17.
5:57 scoreless streak ends with Mike Bruesewitz' free throw and the foul. Brusewitz connected on the free throw, cutting the Butler lead to 15. But Butler held strong and Wisconsin continued to find difficulty on the offensive end, missing its next shots in the face of the Bulldogs swarming defense. Matt Howard answered Brusewitz' three-point play with a three-ball of his own to push the Butler lead back to 18 a few possessions later.
Andrew Smith tested his ankle after putting a brace on and taping it up, returning to the game after what looked to be a serious injury early in the half. He's hobbled, but back on the floor for Butler and gutting it out.
With the pace Wisconsin -- and Butler, for that matter -- plays, can the Badgers come back down 18 with just under eight minutes to play? The way Butler's hustling around on defense, it looks like an uphill struggle.
The Butler Bulldogs have completely shut the Wisconsin Badgers down early with strong defense. The Badgers missed their first eight shots of the half in a scoreless streak that's spanned the first four minutes of the half. Meanwhile, Butler was able to get it going on the offensive end, putting together a 5-0 run to start the half to push its lead to 14.
Andrew Smith is still on the bench after going down hard with an apparent leg injury, though trainers were looking at his ankle. Smith was able to put weight on it and trainers were re-taping his ankles in an effort to get him back on the floor, it appeared.
Though Butler hasn't been lighting up the scoreboard, it has had some open looks in the half, and the Bulldogs' offense has look sharp compared to Wisconsin's thus far. Butler has the lead with just under 16 minutes to go, 38-24.
Any hope Wisconsin had of Butler cooling off with the halftime break went right out the window on the first two possession. Shelvin Mack immediately found a crease in the Badgers' defense, knifing through the lane for an easy lay-in. After forcing a Butler miss on the other end, Andrew Smith got free, rim-checked a dunk, but recovered to finish with the lay-in.
But Smith came down hard going up for a rebound on the other end of the floor, screaming in pain after appearing to land on top of a Wisconsin player's foot. Smith stayed on the ground in obvious pain, clutching his leg and knee after coming down awkwardly. Smith needed help off the court and was walking gingerly to the bench, though he could put weight on it.
There's been no immediate word on what Smith's injury is. With just over a minute gone in the half, Butler leads Wisconsin, 37-24, but the road gets tougher without Smith.
The Butler defense was swarming in the first half, keeping Wisconsin from finding open shots and making the Badgers work every time down the floor. It wasn't fancy -- simple and man-to-man -- but the Butler defense has been outstanding, as expected. With hard-nosed defense and timely offense, the Bulldogs hold a 33-24 halftime lead over Wisconsin.
Nothing summed the half up better than Wisconsin's final trip down the floor. Jordan Taylor found a crease and made his way for the bucket, only to see his lay-in rejected at the buzzer. Taylor has been ice-cold from the field and the free throw line, connecting on just 2-8 shots from the floor and from the 2-7 line en route to six first half points. Keaton Nankivil picked up the slack with a team-high eight points, including two three-pointers, in the first half. Jon Leuer had a team-high five rebounds, but had just three points in the half.
Shawn Vanzant scored a game-high nine points for the Bulldogs, but was forced to have a seat for the final four minutes of the half after picking up his second foul. Matt Howard had eight points, Shelvin Mack had five and Khyle Marshall had four points off the bench.
Tim Jarmusz isn't typically a scoring threat, but he's been big for the Wisconsin Badgers. Jarmusz, who averages four points a game, already has five in the Badgers' Sweet 16 game, hitting timely buckets to keep the Butler Bulldogs from pulling away in the first half.
Jordan Taylor, on the other hand, has been cold from everywhere, including the free throw line. Taylor was fouled on a three with the Badgers down six, but missed two of his three free throws, hitting front-iron on both. The foul he drew may have been more important, though, as it sent Shawn Vanzant to the bench with two early fouls. Vanzant had a game-high nine points before he was forced to sit.
Wisconsin has still been unable to close the gap in the first half as Butler stays one step ahead. The Bulldogs lead the Badgers at the under four timeout, 29-22.
The timeout worked to perfection for Wisconsin as the Badgers quickly put together a run of their own to pull within two of Butler, 18-16. Keaton Nankivil hit another three out of the timeout, immediately followed by a Tim Jarmusz jumper to break the Bulldogs' momentum.
But Butler came roaring back, scoring five-straight points of its own. The Bulldogs went inside first as Andrew Smith took the ball in the low-block and went up in traffic for the lay-in. It was the outside game on the next trip down, with Chase Stigall hitting a deep three to push the Bulldogs' lead back to seven.
Both teams traded buckets, but we got our first highlight-reel play of the game when Khyle Marshall took the lob and flushed it on an alley-oop for the Bulldogs. With just over six minutes to go, Butler is back on top by seven, 25-18.
Jordan Taylor is beginning to wake up for Wisconsin, getting to the line and converting one of two free throws on the other side of the media timeout. Matt Howard answered again, though, connecting on a three, his first bucket of the game, to put the Bulldogs back on top, 14-11.
Shawn Vanzant took over again for the Bulldogs, hitting a jumper, forcing a steal on the other end and running the break to perfection, finishing with an easy lay-in. The quick 7-0 run turned a tie game into an 18-11 lead for the Bulldogs. Vanzant has a game-high nine points on 4-5 shooting for the Bulldogs so far.
The quick run forced Wisconsin to call a timeout in an effort to break momentum and slow down the pace as the Badgers trail halfway through the first half, 18-11.
After an early scoring drought, the game has opened up a bit in New Orleans in the Sweet 16. Shawn Vanzant hit a three from the corner to give Butler its first lead, 6-5. Shelvin Mack followed that up with a steal and fast-break lay-in as both teams appeared to finally begin to settle in and find a few easy buckets.
The Badgers answered from long-range again as Keaton Nankivil drilled a contested three to knot the game at eight. Mack has been everywhere for the Bulldogs, converting a lay-in and the free throw after working hard inside for a bucket and drawing another foul in the paint on the next time down.
After missing his first two shots, Jordan Taylor finally got on the board, stroking a pretty two from the free throw line to bring the Badgers to within one, 11-10, at the under 12-minute timeout.
We're underway in New Orleans as Wisconsin and Butler try to top the overtime thriller between Florida and BYU. Both team started out cold, exchanging misses in the early moments. Sheldon Mack missed his first two shots for the Bulldogs as he was unable to find the range from three and clanked a driving lay-in.
Keaton Nankivil broke the scoreless tie, draining a long two to put the Badgers up, 2-0. On the other end of the floor, Andrew Smith made his way to the line after getting hacked in the paint, but only could convert on one of two.
Jon Leuer shook off a few early misses, burying a three as both teams began to find the range four minutes in. Shelvin Mack did the same, showing off a mid-range game as he nailed a jump to bring the Bulldogs within two.
At the under-16 timeout, buckets have been few and far-between as the Badgers lead, 5-3
Butler's back, and the Bulldogs are heading to a second straight Sweet 16 and a date with Wisconsin in the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket. But Brad Stevens' magic may not be enough against the Badgers, an extremely talented offensive team with more options than the Bulldogs have seen against Pittsburgh and Old Dominion. Wisconsin vs. Butler will tip at 9:57 p.m. Thursday from New Orleans on TBS, according to the 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule, and Gus Johnson and Len Elmore will be the announcers.
The Badgers have already taken a roundhouse in this NCAA Tournament: Jacob Pullen's bravura 38-point performance for Kansas State against Wisconsin was absurd and yet not enough, which should tell you something about Bo Ryan's team's ability to take a punch. But Wisconsin was underseeded at the No. 4 line, and is the favorite here: Keaton Nankivil, Jon Leuer, and Mike Bruesewitz will all be problems for Matt Howard, stretching the region he needs to cover, and if one or both heats up, the Badgers could win in a walk.
Butler's win against Pittsburgh may go down as one of the most insane victories in NCAA Tournament history: the Bulldogs allowed the Panthers to shoot a jaw-dropping 56.5% from the field, hit 12 of 27 threes, executed a brilliant go-ahead play with less than seven seconds left, survived a foul in the final second, and capitalized on one of the most inexplicable fouls in recent memory for a 71-70 win. What can the Bulldogs to do to top it? Well, beating Wisconsin might be better: the Badgers are second in offensive efficiency only to Ohio State, and only because of the so-ugly-it-should-never-make-it-to-DVD 36-33 loss to Penn State in the Big Ten Tournament. Count on Ronald Nored, Shelvin Mack, and Shawn Vanzant to get chances on Jordan Taylor, but doubt Butler's ability to keep up with the taller shooters on Wisconsin's roster. If Mack can heat up like he did against Pittsburgh, Butler's chances of making the Elite Eight increase — and, of course, there is Stevens' fantastic coaching, sure to steal points on one or two possessions, to contend with — but the Bulldogs enter this Sweet 16 game as underdogs. (They like it that way, though.)
Star Watch: Bruesewitz may be the funniest-looking Badgers — really, look at Bruesewitz' bushy, carrot-colored hair — but his game's meant for soft, appreciative chuckles. He hits the boards (statistically, he's Wisconsin's best offensive rebounder) and hits threes, and doesn't need to do much more than that.
Prediction: Why would you ever bet against Butler at this point? The Bulldogs pull another upset, thanks in part to some poor shooting from the Badgers, and get a 72-64 win to continue another brilliant NCAA Tournament run.
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