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The Butler Bulldogs have moved on to the Final Four in a tremendous overtime comeback victory over the Florida Gators. Butler trailed by as many as 11 points in the second half, but rallied to get a 74-71 win and, stunningly, head to the Final Four for the second consecutive season.
The Bulldogs led 72-71 with 29.2 seconds left, and the Gators had the ball. Kenny Boynton had a chance to be the hero, but his deep three-pointer with 14 seconds left fell short. There was a scramble on the rebound, but Butler had the possession arrow and got the ball back. The Gators had one last chance after Shelvin Mack hit two free throws, but Erving Walker missed a deep three-pointer, and the Bulldogs were able to get the rebound and throw the ball downcourt to run out the clock.
Walker made Gus Johnson go crazy by hitting a three-pointer to give Florida the lead with 1:30 left, but just a few seconds later, Mack splashed a three-pointer of his own at the top of the key, giving Butler a 72-70 lead. Walker was fouled, but hit just one of two free throws. The Gators, however, played great defense, forcing an errant Mack shot and eventually grabbing the rebound with 29.2 seconds remaining.
Butler led by three points midway through overtime, but Kenny Boynton tied the game by nailing a three-pointer off a great pass from Erving Walker to tie the game at 67 with two minutes remaining. Two free throws by Ronald Nored gave Butler a 69-67 lead immediately prior to Walker's three.
Khyle Marshall made the first big play of overtime, grabbing two offensive rebounds and scoring one while drawing the foul to give Butler a 65-62 with 3:33 remaining. Marshall was only in the game because Andrew Smith had fouled out earlier in overtime. Boynton cut the lead down to 65-64 with two free throws, but Nored pushed it back up to 67-64.
Mack led all scorers with 27 points. Vernon Macklin led Florida with 25 points, but was largely ineffective down the stretch.
We will need five more minutes to decide whether Butler or Florida reaches the Final Four. The two teams are tied at 60 at the end of regulation, and this Elite Eight matchup will head to overtime.
Butler looked like it had nothing going on its game-tying possession, but after two timeouts, Matt Howard somehow found his way into the lane and drew a foul with 30.7 seconds left. Howard made the first, but missed the second. The Gators ran the clock down, making sure they did not give Butler another shot. But Erving Walker couldn't get a great look, missing a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime.
Vernon Macklin had been quiet for a while, but not at the end of the game. He broke a 57-all tie with a free throw, then drove from the corner to the basket and powered in a layup over Andrew Smith to give Florida a 60-57 win. The basket gave Macklin a career-high 24 points for the game. But coach Billy Donovan decided to take Macklin out of the game because he was concerned Butler would foul Macklin and put the 44-percent free-throw shooter on the line.
Shelvin Mack hit two free throws to cut the lead back down to 60-59 with 1:20 remaining, and the Gators couldn't get anything going on its possession.
Butler has rallied once again in its Elite Eight game against Florida. Reserve guard Chrishawn Hopkins, checking in for the fist time all game, gave the Bulldogs a spark, and Shelvin Mack did the rest, scoring two layups to tie the game at 57 with 2:43 remaining.
Hopkins made an immediate impact. First, he grabbed a loose ball off a blocked three-pointer and fed Howard for an easy layup. Then, after Kenny Boynton missed a floater, the Bulldogs pushed the ball and found Hopkins on the left wing for the open transition three-pointer. The basket cut Florida's lead to 53-49 with 6:33 remaining.
Florida got two points back on a Boynton dunk off a Hopkins turnover, but Shawn Vanzant hit a three-pointer to cut Florida's lead to 55-52. The Gators pushed their lead to 57-53, but Mack cut the lead down to two points with a spectacular Euro step and floater in transition, followed by another layup as he drove around the Florida big men.
Alex Tyus continues to star for Florida, as the Gators have pushed ahead 53-44 with 7:37 remaining in the second half of its Elite Eight game against Butler. Tyus has scored the Gators' last six points.
Matt Howard, who continues to struggle with his shot, missed yet another three-pointer on Butler's first possession after the under-12 minute timeout, dropping to 2-8 from the field for the game. Shelvin Mack then threw the ball away on a crosscourt pass against the Gators' press, which eventually led to two free throws from Tyus and a 49-40 Florida lead at the 9:50 mark.
Mack tried to get Butler back in it with another pull-up three-pointer, but it went in and out. On the ensuing possession, Tyus drove, pulled up to avoid the charge and hit a right-handed floater to give Florida a 51-40 lead. Florida then fell asleep on an out of bounds play, allowing Howard to sneak in for a layup. The Gators then missed the rebound on a free throw, and Howard drew a foul on Tyus. Howard missed the free throw, but Andrew Smith climbed over Tyus' back to tip it in and cut the lead to 51-44 with 8:35 remaining. Tyus responded by getting the roll on a jumper, his 14th point of the game.
Florida has once again pushed ahead of Butler in this Elite Eight showdown. Kenny Boynton and Alex Tyus caught fire, and the Gators lead 47-40 with 11:33 remaining.
Tyus provided the highlights of the game thus far on two straight possessions. First, he took a pass from Scottie Wilbekin and dunked it over Andrew Smith with the right hand. After a Butler miss, Tyus got a second dunk when Chandler Parsons got into the lane and dumped it off to him for a two-handed stuff. The two plays led to a Butler timeout with Florida leading 43-39 at the 14:15 mark.
Florida pushed its lead to 45-40 when Boynton drove and hit a tough pull-up jumper, then hit a second difficult pull-up shot off the glass on the fast break to push the lead to seven.
Vernon Macklin continues to dominate Butler inside, scoring his 21st point on another right-handed jump hook to push Florida ahead 39-37 with 15:49 remaining. Butler seems content to play him one-on-one, and he continues to burn them. Butler then tied the game back up at 39 on a floater by Shawn Vanzant.
The Butler vs. Florida Elite Eight game has gotten tight as the second half gets underway. The teams are tied at 37 with just under 16 minutes remaining in the game, as Shelvin Mack and Vernon Macklin continue to star for their respective teams.
Matt Howard and Chandler Parsons both struggled in the first half, and both missed their first shots of the second half. Howard, however, nailed his second -- a three-pointer from the corner, to give Butler its first lead since early in the game. Macklin quickly tied the game back up again with a rebound and putback for his 17th point of the game.
The two teams kept battling back and forth from there. Mack broke a 37-37 tie by driving to the basket, stumbling and still hitting a left-handed layup over Macklin. Florida missed consecutive pull-up three-pointers in transition, but then Macklin grabbed his second offensive rebound and laid it in for the left hand. Afterwards, he implored his guards to get him the ball in the post, and drew two fouls on Butler players trying to guard him down there.
Butler has slowly rallied after getting off to a slow start in the first half of its Elite Eight game against Florida. The Bulldogs trailed by as many as 10 points, but closed the half on a 17-8 run to cut Florida's lead to 33-32 at halftime. Khyle Marshall, who has been very solid in the first half, nailed a turnaround putback jumper to close the half and provide the margin.
Shelvin Mack continued his outstanding first half, nailing a three-pointer on the break on Butler's prior possession. Mack has been visibly bothered by an ankle injury suffered midway through the first half, but the three gave him 14 points for the game.
Vernon Macklin leads the way for Florida with 15 points on 7-9 shooting. Most of those points have come on right-handed jump hooks, his pet move. No other player on either team besides Mack and Macklin has scored more than six points.
Butler has nearly worked itself all the way back in the first half of an Elite Eight game against Florida. The Bulldogs are on a 10-2 run, and have cut a 10-point lead down to two points. Zach Hann completed the run with his second three-pointer of the game.
Vernon Macklin hit a righty jump hook to give Florida a 25-15 lead, but then Butler rallied. Hann hit a long three-pointer from the top of the key to start the run, and Andrew Smith forced a Florida turnover by playing Macklin well on the ensuing possession. Shawn Vanzant then got on the board with a floater, cutting Florida's lead to five.
On Butler's next possession, Shelvin Mack was fouled and hit two free throws to complete a 7-0 run. The two free throws gave Mack 11 points for the game. But after a Florida miss, Mack twisted his ankle going on a fast break, and had to be taken out of the game. Butler turned it over on the next possession, which led to a fast-break dunk for Kenny Boynton that immediately preceded Hann's second three-pointer.
Florida's size is beginning to overwhelm Butler in this Elite Eight game. Vernon Macklin has 11 points already, and the Gators have opened up a 23-15 lead with 7:37 to go in the first half. The Gators' front line of Macklin, Alex Tyus and Chandler Parsons has 20 of the Gators' 23 points between them.
Ronald Nored continued his poor game by fouling Kenny Boynton on a three-point attempt. Boynton hit all three shots to take a 21-15 lead, its largest of the game. Macklin added to that lead with a drop step and a layup, his 11th point of the game.
Matt Howard finally got on the board with two free throws, then powered through the lane with a left-handed runner. However, he also missed a wide open three pointer and hasn't been a significant factor in the game.
Florida's balance has been the difference early in this Elite Eight game against Butler. The Gators lead 14-11 after the eight-minute timeout, as Butler is struggling to get anyone going other than Shelvin Mack, who has nine points.
Vernon Macklin continued his strong start by bowling over Khyle Marshall and hitting a jump shoot while drawing the foul to put Florida up 14-10. Mack responded by getting Scottie Wilbekin in the air on a three-point attempt and drawing the foul, even though Mack placed his elbow squarely in Wilbekin's face. He only hit one of three free throws, though, and the score remained 14-11.
Chandler Parsons struggled early, missing a point-blank layup early, then airballing a five-foot hook shot in the post. But he eventually got on the board on an offensive rebound, nailing a three-pointer from the top of the key after Macklin kicked it out to him.
Butler got points from someone other than Mack when Khyle Marshall cut baseline and nailed a reverse layup while drawing the foul. However, nobody else on the team has scored yet. Matt Howard has only attempted one shot in the entire game.
Shelvin Mack has played really well for Butler throughout the 2011 NCAA Tournament, and is playing really well again in the Elite Eight matchup against Florida. Mack has scored all eight of Butler's points in the early going, as the two teams are tied at eight after five minutes.
Mack began the game by banking in a three from 28 feet away straight on, then hit a second three off an offensive rebound, this time from the left wing. Then, he hit another pull-up jumper off a screen. Alas, nobody else on Butler has scored.
Vernon Macklin has six early points for the Gators, going to work against Matt Howard and Andrew Smith. He has hit a layup and two jump hooks. Alex Tyus has Florida's other field goal, nailing a corner jump shot on a pick and pop to start the game.
Florida vs. Butler is a game that we've seen twice before on the 2011 NCAA Tournament bracket: in 2000, Mike Miller's runner topped the Bulldogs in a first round classic, while in 2007, Butler gave Florida's Joakim Noah-led team its greatest scare en route to a second consecutive national title. Since that meeting, the Gators have struggled to even get to the NCAA Tournament, while Butler basketball enjoyed its greatest success under Brad Stevens, making it all the way to the 2010 NCAA Tournament final. That means this 2011 Elite Eight game may have the two coaches with the highest combined winning percentage in NCAA Tournament history: Billy Donovan is 25-8 for a .757 NCAA Tournament winning percentage, while Brad Stevens is 9-3 and holds a .750 winning percentage in the NCAA Tournament. We'll find out whether Florida or Butler advances to the Final Four from the Southeast Region at 4:20 p.m. this Saturday from New Orleans, according to the 2011 NCAA Tournament schedule, and Gus Johnson, Len Elmore, and Reggie Miller will have the call on CBS.
Florida has played three good games in this NCAA Tournament, but only their first win, a trampling of UC Santa Barbara, counts as complete: against UCLA, Florida's big men nearly evaporated, while the Gators' offense went cold after a blazing start against BYU and would not recover until overtime. Those flaws didn't prevent the Gators from getting wins, but they certainly made those games closer than they may have needed to be: Florida's been the best team in the Southeast Region when its offense has been clicking, and if Erving Walker, Kenny Boynton, and Chandler Parsons can hit threes, this team is very, very difficult to stop. And if Alex Tyus can repeat his Sweet 16 performance (19 points, 17 rebounds) against Butler, or at least approximate it along with Vernon Macklin, Florida is likely to run its 4-0 record in Elite Eight games to 5-0.
Butler, though, keeps giving teams fits. Their offense lifted the Bulldogs against Pitt, while their defense and rebounding produced wins against Old Dominion and Wisconsin — in games that saw Butler's offense commit double-digit turnovers and shoot under 50% from the field. Florida probably has as much talent up and down its roster as any team Butler's seen this season, but whether Butler permits that talent to make plays is another story. Shelvin Mack could have a field day if he's guarded by the much shorter Walker, but it's likely that Mack draws Boynton and Scottie Wilbekin while lightly-used Ronald Nored and fleet-footed Shawn Vanzant get Walker. Butler's bigger concern: if Howard is down low and Andrew Smith is hobbled by an ankle injury sustained against Wisconsin, will the Bulldogs have answer for Parsons? Butler has a spotless Elite Eight record, too — 1-0! — but the perpetual underdog Bulldogs have another tall task before them.
Star Watch: Parsons hasn't been Florida's flashiest scorer in the Gators' first three games, but he's been UF's do-everything player as always. Since 1996-97, four players have averaged 10 points, six rebounds, and six assists over at least four NCAA Tournament games: Marquette's Dwyane Wade, Memphis' Derrick Rose, Ohio State's Evan Turner, and Parsons.
Prediction: Can Butler get over the hump against their Tournament bogeyman? Will Florida's offense be able to survive Butler's disciplined defense? If Smith's ankle tweak impacts this game at all, Butler's going to struggle to cover all of Florida's front line; here's saying it does, just slightly, and the Gators advance to the Final Four with a 65-61 victory.
More Reading: SB Nation's Florida blog Alligator Army has plenty more on the Gators' Elite Eight run, while SB Nation Indiana is all over Butler's NCAA Tournament success. And check out the SB Nation NCAA Tournament hub for more on the 2011 NCAA Tournament.
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