- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 3, 2010

NDIANAPOLIS | Several thousand Butler fans erupted into cheers inside Hinkle Fieldhouse when big-screen televisions showed their Bulldogs defeat Michigan State 52-50 Saturday night and earn their first Final Four victory.

In a blue-and-white sea of Butler shirts, waving pompoms, painted faces and “Go Dawgs” signs, students said it felt like a home game inside the historic fieldhouse — home to the Bulldogs and just miles away from the Final Four host venue in downtown Indianapolis.

“I can’t even describe it. It was crazy,” said sophomore Jeremy Reagin, 20. “I didn’t get a ticket and I would rather be with everybody. This is a community, this is a family. It’s just so awesome to be on campus and see everybody celebrate.”

With both sides of the bleachers filled in the lower levels, fans cheered every Butler basket and chanted “Defense! Defense!” on many of Michigan State’s offensive possessions. Late in the game, the fieldhouse was almost silent when Ronald Nored hit two free throws to give Butler a 52-49 lead with 6 seconds left.

“The energy inside here was incredible. It was electric. It was the next best thing to being there,” said Deb Barrick, 49, of Indianapolis.

Outside, car horns and even a blow horn filled the fieldhouse parking lot as fans poured out of the building.

“I bet the party doesn’t end until Monday,” Reagin predicted.

And he may be right. Butler (33-4) will take on Duke (34-5) in Monday night’s title game — in the Bulldogs’ hometown.

Four huge TV screens were set up on the fieldhouse’s floor Saturday facing opposite sides of the bleachers. Fans began lining up two hours before the game started. A disc jockey played music during commercial breaks and members of Butler’s athletic staff threw shirts into the crowd.

“The atmosphere in Indianapolis is awesome and we wanted to be part of it,” said Joe Covington, 42, who drove three hours with his wife and three sons from Lexington, Ky., to watch the game at Hinkle.

Echoing many fans, Covington predicted the Bulldogs would win the title.

“Things are meant to happen,” he said. “It seems like it’s their year.”

Butler, with an enrollment of 4,200, advanced to its first national semifinal with wins over top-seed Syracuse and No. 2 Kansas State. Michigan State was playing in its sixth Final Four in 12 years.

Duke beat West Virginia 78-57 late Saturday to advance to the title game against Butler.

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