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Mack gets Butler another shot at title
HOUSTON (AP) - Shelvin Mack wasn’t daunted by playing on college basketball’s biggest stage.
After all, this was nothing new for Butler.
Mack scored 24 points, including 10 straight in a key second-half run, and the Bulldogs beat Virginia Commonwealth 70-62 on Saturday night for their second straight trip to the title game.
“We’re just looking forward to the game on Monday,” Mack said with a huge smile.
The junior seemed perfectly comfortable from the start, then stepped up in the second half when most of his team was struggling on offense. Butler led by one before Mack outscored VCU 10-4 in a stretch covering just over 2 minutes, the lead swelling to 54-47.
He was 5 of 6 from beyond the 3-point line.
“He was a killer tonight,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “He stepped up and made some huge, huge shots, especially from beyond the arc.”
The pair talked after the game about how it felt playing in the Final Four again.
“Tonight it’s just like any game, weirdly enough,” Howard said. “In our minds I don’t think we let our surroundings get to us. It didn’t feel like a national semifinal.”
Butler lost to Duke in last year’s title game when a half-court shot by Gordon Hayward bounced off the rim at the buzzer. Hayward left school early for the NBA, leaving Mack and Howard to lead the Bulldogs deep into this year’s NCAA tournament.
The sting of that loss has stayed with this team.
“This is great, but we’re not going not going to settle on just getting back,” teammate Zach Hahn said. “I remember the sour taste it left in my mouth last year and I just think this group, we’re here now and we have a chance. That’s all you can ask.”
“An incredible basketball player,” Howard said. “He has a will and determination that’s unlike many guys.”
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