- The Washington Times - Friday, March 16, 2007

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Old Dominion held hopes this week of replicating the extended run of the last Colonial Athletic Association team to earn an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament.

Butler and its posse of outside shooters had other plans.

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs unleashed a torrent of 3-pointers in the second half to upend No. 12 Old Dominion 57-46 in a first round Midwest Region game at HSBC Arena.

A.J. Graves scored 18 points and reserve forward Pete Campbell drilled three consecutive 3-pointers in the middle of the second half to open up the lead for Butler (28-6), which will meet fourth-seeded Maryland (25-8) at 3:20 p.m. tomorrow in the second round.

The Monarchs (24-9), one of the last teams into the field, went scoreless for 7:18 in the middle of the second half to ensure they would neither win their first NCAA game since 1995 nor replicate George Mason’s Final Four run of a year ago.

“I felt like we could compete with their guards and guard their team, but I was worried one of their big guys would make some jumpers that would win the game. As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened,” Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor said. “We showed we could compete in this game. At this time of year, you’re playing good people and someone will go home, and this time it will be us.”

The figurative peach baskets were out in the first half as Old Dominion struggled to a 20-19 lead at the break. And even with 12 minutes left, the Monarchs held a 32-29 edge.

It didn’t last long. Graves’ 3-pointer tied it, and Campbell made three 3-pointers in a span of two minutes to open up a 41-32 lead. Moments later, Mike Green hit another 3 and soon added a driving layup to complete Butler’s 17-0 run.

“We just calmed down,” said Graves, whose team set a school record for victories in a season. “In the first half we rushed some shots and weren’t moving as well. We calmed down in the second half, and we got used to the environment. We just got some open looks and knocked them down.”

Old Dominion closed within 51-42 on Arnaud Dahi’s 3-point play with 2:37 left and soon forced Butler into a turnover. However, the Monarchs’ Brian Henderson was called for a charge on the next possession, and Old Dominion never drew closer.

Valdas Vasylius, Old Dominion’s leading scorer at 15.8 points, was held to two points in the first half and 10 points for the game.

“They played physical and tried to push me out of the paint,” Vasylius said. “That affected my game. I wasn’t the player I usually am.”

The victory was a bit of validation for Butler, which leaped into the national rankings after winning the Preseason NIT but split its final eight games (including a Horizon League title game defeat at Wright State) entering the tournament.

Instead of serving as upset fodder, the Bulldogs receive a shot at both a Maryland team that has won eight of its last nine and the third regional semifinal appearance in school history.

“I know they had a lot of doubters, but if they looked at the ending stretch and who we played, I think you can justifiably say it was a tough stretch,” Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. “It was draining for our team, but we had time, and we recovered. We were fresher than we’ve been. I don’t know how they’ll be Saturday, but I haven’t lost confidence in this team one bit.”

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