With one huge shot, Brandon Miller erased any doubt about whether Butler belongs in the NCAA tournament.
Miller's runner in the lane with 6.2 seconds left carried the 12th-seeded Bulldogs past No. 5 Mississippi State, 47-46, in the first round of the East Region on Friday night.
"To hit a shot like that in the NCAA tournament, nothing compares to it," Miller said. "It's something you dream about when you're a kid. It's something you dream about when you're 23. Definitely the biggest shot of my career."
Maybe the biggest ever for Butler (26-5), which faces Rick Pitino and fourth-seeded Louisville on Sunday.
After the clock ran out, a euphoric Miller raced around the court pumping his fist in the air, while teammate Mike Monserez jumped onto a press table waving his arms at Butler's fans. The Bulldog players came back onto the court and gathered in front of their bench a few minutes later, relishing in the victory.
Michael Ignerski missed a fadeaway jumper with 25 seconds left for Mississippi State (21-10). The 6-foot Miller then brought the ball up the court and hit the running shot in traffic.
"We had run that play so many times before, I was just trying to come off the screen and see what the defense gave me," said Miller, a senior transfer from Southwest Missouri State. "I had the little runner open. That was a shot I didn't have when I came to Butler, a shot that coach (Todd) Lickliter taught me."
Mississippi State's Timmy Bowers overshot on a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
Butler won acclaim at the NCAA tournament three years ago by taking Florida to overtime as a No. 12 seed, and the Bulldogs gained a bona fide reputation when they upset Wake Forest in 2001. Now the Horizon League regular-season champions can add another entry to their history of upsets.
Butler felt jilted last year when it failed to get invited to the tournament, despite a 25-5 record. But this time, the Bulldogs proved they belong.
* AUBURN 65, SAINT JOSEPH'S 63: Marquis Daniels scored 25 points, five of them in overtime, and the Tigers withstood a brilliant second-half performance by Saint Joseph's star Jameer Nelson to hold on for the victory in Tampa.
Nelson scored 13 of his team's last 15 points in regulation, including two free throws with a half-second left to tie it at 57. He made a pair of 3-pointers to help Saint Joseph's take a 63-59 lead in overtime, but the Hawks couldn't finish the job.
No. 10 seed Auburn (21-11) pulled within two on Daniels' dunk, and the Tigers took the lead for good on the senior forward's three-point play with 45.2 seconds remaining in the extra period. Nelson missed his last two shots and Saint Joseph's turned the ball over on an offensive foul with 19 seconds left.
The seventh-seeded Hawks then saw their last chance for victory end when Pat Carroll's shot failed to hit the rim with less than a second remaining. Nelson finished with 32 points and nine rebounds.
* SYRACUSE 76, MANHATTAN 65: Carmelo Anthony scored 10 of his 17 points after the break as Syracuse improved its play in the second half in Boston.
The third-seeded Orangemen (25-5) struggled early, taking a 35-31 lead at halftime after committing 12 turnovers.
Anthony and his teammates played much better after the break, cutting the turnovers down to six. Starting forward Hakim Warrick also improved, scoring all 10 of his points in the second half after being benched following the first three minutes of the game when he played poor defense.
Jared Johnson scored 22 points and Luis Flores added 20 to led the 14th-seeded Jaspers (23-7).
* OKLAHOMA STATE 77, PENN 63: Victor Williams scored a career-high 29 points and Oklahoma State made enough free throws down the stretch to win in Boston.
Ugonna Onyekwe matched a career high with 30 points for Penn, which won its previous 15 games and went undefeated in the Ivy League. The Quakers (22-6) were within four with 2:58 left, but they gave up the last 10 points of the game.
* WAKE FOREST 76, EAST TENNESSE ST. 73: Josh Howard made two key free throws and finished with 12 points as the second-seeded Demon Deacons survived a major scare from No. 15 seed East Tennessee State in Tampa.
With his 22-point performance and frenetic floor game, Tim Smith got most of the credit for ETSU's scintillating effort. During an unbelievable 65-second stretch late in the game, he almost took the Bucs (20-11) to the second round on his own.
The 5-foot-9 freshman made a 3-pointer and a pair of free throws to cut a 72-64 deficit to three with 47 seconds left, then hit a 3-pointer from the left side to tie the game.
After Howard made two free throws with 21 seconds to go, ETSU's Zakee Wadood (20 points, 14 rebounds) had a chance to tie it. But Wake Forest (25-5) called timeout to ice him, and Wadood missed the second of two free throws.
* LOUISVILLE 86, AUSTIN PEAY 64: Rick Pitino returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1997 and did it in style, this time guiding Louisville over flustered Austin Peay in Birmingham.
While Luke Whitehead had 20 points and 11 rebounds and star Reece Gaines scored 18, Pitino clearly was the biggest attraction for the fourth-seeded Cardinals (25-6). The Louisville coach stomped his foot, clapped his hands, called out picks and shouted at the officials the entire game.
Pitino also slapped on all-court pressure, as planned, and that was the difference. He knew 13th-seeded Austin Peay (23-8) could be sloppy handling the ball, but waited until midway through the first half to start trapping.