Butler 52 Michigan State 50
INDIANAPOLIS — After 25 years, Hoosiers could use an update.
With one more win, Butler will have the perfect script.
Gordon Hayward had 19 points and nine rebounds, including one with two seconds left that sealed the game as the Bulldogs took down another of college basketball’s biggest names with a 52-50 victory over Michigan State in the Final Four on Saturday. Butler (33-4) now plays Duke in Monday night’s title game.
In its hometown, no less.
“We’ve been talking about the next game all year, and it’s great to be able to say the next game’s for a national championship,” Hayward said.
Michigan State (28-9) has been living on the edge all tournament, ravaged by injuries and squeaking from game to game, and this night was no different. After trailing by as much as seven in the second half, Green made a pair of free throws to pull Michigan State within 50-49 with 56 seconds left.
Ronald Nored missed a jumper, and Michigan State got the rebound. But Hayward wouldn’t give the driving Green an inch, forcing him to put up an awkward layup that didn’t come close. Nored scooped up the rebound, and Green had no choice but to foul him, pushing the big fella out of the game.
Nored made both, and the Bulldogs had a 52-49 lead with six seconds to play.
After a timeout, the Spartans inbounded the ball and Butler was all over them, choosing to foul rather than take a chance on the Spartans getting of a three — like they did to beat Maryland at the buzzer. Korie Lucious made the first and bricked the second. Hayward came up with the ball to seal the victory and set off a party the likes of which Indiana hasn’t seen since tiny Milan beat Muncie Central for the state title in 1954, the real-life inspiration for Hoosiers.
Although the Bulldogs are no plucky underdog, there’s no doubting the connections between Hoosiers and Butler’s magical run. In the movie, the final score was 42-40. The actual Milan final score — 32-30.
On Saturday night, it was 52-50.
And watching it all unfold was Bobby Plump, whose buzzer-beating jumper gave Milan the win.
“Both sides really battled,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens, who has waited all of three years to play for his first national title.
“We were lucky to be up two at the end.”
Luck had nothing to do with it. More like good, old fundamentals and pesky defence.
It certainly wasn’t the prettiest of finishes — Butler went almost 11 minutes without a field goal after Willie Veasley’s layup with 12:19 left — and it almost seemed like the first team to score a basket was going to win. But the Bulldogs weren’t flustered to be playing on the game’s biggest stage and locked down whenever they had to.
Durrell Summers, who had averaged 20 points in Michigan State’s first four tournament games, was held to 14. Green had 12 as did Lucious, who was playing in place of injured point guard — and leading scorer — Kalin Lucas. Senior Raymar Morgan, who spent most of the game in foul trouble, finished with just four points.
The finish was a bitter disappointment for the Spartans, who had hoped to get back to the national title game after being routed by North Carolina in Detroit last year. Instead, they’ll have to watch another group of local boys delight the hometown fans.
“We didn’t get it done,” Izzo said. “I thought the physical play bothered us — that surprised me.”
Butler is the 11th team to play a Final Four in their homestate. Nobody has won it at home since UCLA in 1975, when the Final Four was down the road from Westwood in San Diego.
But the Bulldogs are on a wonderful ride, and they’ve got what seems like the entire Hoosier state on their side. When Hayward came up with that final rebound, Lucas Oil Stadium shook, the kind of celebration usually reserved for Peyton Manning.
With a baby face, Hayward easily could be mistaken for Jimmy Chitwood. But this kid could play on any team, big or small. He can shoot inside, outside, and he’s not afraid to do the dirty work, leading Butler with nine rebounds.
And if not for his and Shelvin Mack’s play in the first half, the Bulldogs would be heading back to their dorm rooms instead of a downtown hotel.
Hayward scored Butler’s first four field goals, and he and Mack were the only Bulldogs to make anything from the field in the first half. Veasley? He was 0-for-2. Nored? Didn’t even get off a shot. Moustached Matt Howard? He took a seat six minutes into the game after getting whistled for his second foul.