Butler rallies to beat Florida, reach Final Four
NEW ORLEANS | Of course Butler erased a late deficit. Of course the Bulldogs hit a clutch 3-pointer late in overtime. Of course they’re going back to the Final Four.
This is the Butler Way.
Shelvin Mack scored 27 points, including five in overtime, and Butler returned to the Final Four with a 74-71 victory over Florida on Saturday.
Mack’s 3-pointer with 1:21 left in overtime gave Butler the lead for good at 72-70.
Kenny Boynton missed a long 3 that could have given Florida (29-8) the lead with a little under 20 seconds left. Alex Tyus appeared to have the offensive rebound, but Howard tied him up and the possession arrow favored Butler.
Florida had to foul Mack with 10.6 seconds to go, and he hit both shots for the final margin.
Vernon Macklin had a career-high 25 points for second-seeded Florida, the third-straight higher seed from a major conference to be vanquished by the Bulldogs.
Butler had to overcome Florida’s size advantage and a number of its own mistakes.
In regulation, the Bulldogs made 10 of 20 free throws and shot 39.6 percent (21 of 53), including 8 of 30 from 3-point range. Yet they somehow found a way to survive to overtime, when they hit all seven foul shots and three of their eight field goals.
Remarkably, Butler also outrebounded the Gators, 41-34.
Now the Bulldogs are one win away from a second straight appearance in the national championship game.
Florida appeared to be taking control when Tyus, the leading scorer and rebounder in Florida’s overtime win over BYU, got loose for a pair of soaring dunks, then added two free throws and a driving floater during a 12-1 run that gave the Gators a 51-40 lead with 9:26 left.
Howard’s basket inside as he was fouled snapped the run, then seldom-used reserve Chrishawn Hopkins, who’d just set up Howard’s score, added a 3 as Butler slowly clawed its way back again, finally tying it at 57 with 3:03 to go on the second of consecutive driving layups by Mack.