Butler 79, Louisville 71
Coach Todd Lickliter called what No. 12 seed Butler did to stun fourth-seeded Louisville and excite basketball purists today "collective intellect."
It started with mental toughness against a full-court press that allowed the Bulldogs to crawl out of an early 15-point deficit and ended with precise execution on offense that led to eight three-pointers in nine attempts by guard Darnell Archey.
That produced a 79-71 victory in the second round of the NCAA tournament's East Region and propelled Butler to the round of 16 Friday in Albany, N.Y., against top-seeded Oklahoma. The Bulldogs, who upset No. 5 seed Mississippi State on Friday, have made the round of 16 before. But it was in 1962, when only one win was required.
"When you have a group of guys this intelligent and so focused, you can have a turnaround like this," Lickliter said of the day of preparation between games. "I get to see all the things [in practice] that don't show up on the scoreboard. All that makes basketball a special thing."
Gritty point guard Brandon Miller, whose 10-foot leaner with six seconds left beat Mississippi State, righted himself and the team today after the early Louisville burst. And his passes and teammates' picks, like the ones by beefy forward Joel Cornette, set up Archey for one of the best shooting shows in the tournament.
"It was amazing, I was in a zone," said Archey, forming a huge basket-like circle with his arms. "I felt like Michael Jordan in '92 against the Blazers."
One of the best sequences for Butler (27-5) came shortly after halftime, when Miller drove the left baseline and passed cross-court to forward Mike Monserez. But Monserez saw that Archey, who had with 26 points, was even more open on the wing and whipped the ball to him. Archey swished it.
"I've seen him hit 33 threes in a row in practice," Lickliter said. "He kind of surprises me when he misses."
Point guard Reece Gaines (6 of 10 three-pointers, 26 points) kept Louisville (25-7) in the game with his own torrid shooting, and twice narrowed the Butler advantage to a point with just under two minutes left. Then Archey hit another of his threes from the left baseline and, after forward Duane Lightfoot sank a layup off a feed from Miller, ensured victory with two foul shots.
As Archey was about to loft the first foul shot, Cornette covered his face with his hands in disbelief at what had happened. No miracle victory from the opposition was possible now, as had happened in a loss to Florida in the tournament three years ago.
"We are still here!" Cornette shouted.
Later, some players had hand-lettered soggy shirts that read: "No longer pretenders. We're contenders."