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Originally published March 27, 2010 at 06:11p.m., updated March 28, 2010 at 12:00a.m.

Purple people beaters: Cinderella (kind of) Butler dashes K-State’s Final 4 dreams

Kansas  State players, including Jacob Pullen, center, sit on the bench during the final minute of the NCAA West Regional final college basketball game against Butler in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Butler beat Kansas State 63-54.

Kansas State players, including Jacob Pullen, center, sit on the bench during the final minute of the NCAA West Regional final college basketball game against Butler in Salt Lake City on Saturday. Butler beat Kansas State 63-54.

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KSU vs. Butler

Box score

— Every day they walk into practice, they also walk onto a movie set — the one where they filmed the story about the little team that gets its big chance and lives out the unthinkable dream.

That’s the story of “Hoosiers.”

That’s also the story of Butler — the team that’s reminding everyone that big schools with big money don’t have a monopoly on everything in big-time sports.

Yes, the boys from Butler did it — getting 22 points from Gordon Hayward to defeat Kansas State, 63-56, in the West Regional final Saturday and advance to the Final Four.

Next, the Bulldogs take their 24-game winning streak to downtown Indy. Though only five miles from the Butler campus, it’s hard to think of many programs that have taken a longer, more unlikely road to get this close to a championship.

“It’d be just as cool if we moved it to Hinkle,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of his team’s fieldhouse. “I’d be all for that.”

No such luck. Still, the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (32-4) are writing their own underdog story, even if they can’t really be called underdogs anymore.

Shelvin Mack scored 16, and Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley keyed an in-your-face defensive effort on K-State guards Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente to help Butler become the first school from a true mid-major conference to make the Final Four since George Mason in 2006 — a trip that also ended in Indianapolis.

“This is probably the coolest thing that’s ever happened in my life,” Nored said.

Trailing almost the entire game, No. 2 Kansas State (29-8) rallied to tie it at 54 with 3:09 remaining.

But Butler didn’t fold, it only got better. The Bulldogs scored the next nine points to seal the game before Pullen’s shot at the buzzer dropped — but offered no consolation.

“It was a great experience, but it hurts that it had to end today,” Pullen said.

Enrollment at Butler is in the 4,500 range, about 15 of whom have reminded everyone why college basketball captures America’s heart this time every year.

They are weaving a story about the overlooked and under-appreciated getting their time in the limelight — the kind of tale every underdog, from Charlie Brown to Gene Hackman, has to love.

But make no mistake — this is not some scrappy, overmatched team that needed a break, no Danny and the Miracles, or Villanova shooting 79 percent to knock off mighty Georgetown.

This is a team that stood toe-to-toe with Syracuse on one night, then Kansas State the next, shutting down two power teams from power conferences with legitimate stars of their own.

Pullen and Clemente didn’t score a point for Kansas State until 15 seconds remained in the first half, and it was no matter of luck. Rather, it was the tough, in-your-face defense of Nored and Veasley that did it — smothering a pair of players who had combined for 53 points two nights earlier in a double-overtime win against Xavier.

Clemente finished with 18 and Pullen 14, but they shot a combined 11-for-30.

“Defensively, they just try to hound everybody, try to stay in the lane, pack it in so there’s nowhere to drive,” Pullen said. “Then they just send five to the glass every time. Did a good job rebounding.”

Led by Hayward’s nine boards, Butler won that contest, too, 41-29.

Lucky, plucky teams simply don’t win the way Butler did. Much like in its 63-59 victory over Syracuse, the Bulldogs held the lead in this one for most of the night, but fell behind briefly toward the end.

Clemente made a three-pointer with 4:49 left to cap an 8-0 run and give K-State its only lead of the game, 52-51. Teams like Butler are supposed to fold then, right?

Well, not quite.

Hayward got fouled going to the hole and made two free throws to take the lead back, and Matt Howard made one more free throw to make it 54-52. Clemente dribbled for what seemed like forever for a layup to tie, and that was the last significant basket KSU made.

Coach Frank Martin wouldn’t make excuses, but clearly that Xavier game took a lot out of the Wildcats.

“We looked tired. We were sluggish but I don’t think it was as much about our wrongdoing as it was Butler’s right-doing,” he said.

Comments

Milhawkee 10 years ago

There was a point in this game where Butler scored with 1:02 left and the ball got lost amongst the cheerleaders out of bounds and the clock was still running. Then K-State imbounded the ball from sideline with 53.4 left. The refs looked at it but didn't change it...

Where did those 10 seconds go?

jhokfan 10 years ago

The Wildcats had a season to be proud of. Now that they're out I'm rooting for Baylor.

esubrett 10 years ago

Milhawkee you sound like a kstate fan complaining about the refs after a loss. Ha ha! Rock chalk. And before someone says it. Yes I understand Milhawkee is a KU fan.

gchawk 10 years ago

Did anyone else notice that with around 4 minutes left in the game there was a call against K-State and one of the announcers said "now the players are whining among themselves, that's not good". It seems every time there is a call against the Cats their fans just go ballistic which not only demonstrates their lack of knowledge of the game but their class as well. Can't say it makes me sad to see them get defeated.

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years ago

esubrett:

Milhawkee was simply pointing out the loss of the time. How you concluded a team affiliation out of that is beyond the reasoning of Aristotle. I will point out something else about the officials. I recognized two of them from the Big East. One of them should be at home drawing Social Security. He is so old and slow he was out of position to make any legitimate call, and it hurt BOTH teams.

KU2010CHAMPS 10 years ago

K-State sucks this will be the demise of Frank "Veins" Martin. Just as Quin Snyder made it to the Elite 8 so does Frank Martin oh well it was fun while it lasted right all you Cat (Hackers) Backers.

optichawk 10 years ago

I heard twice this week on sports radio that Frank Martin said something about carrying on and extending the basketball tradition at K-State. Was this the school in Manhattan he was talking about? Yes, they have had spurts where hoops were good but c'mon... Wichita State also had a few good years but I wouldn't say it has hoops tradition. 2 Elite 8's in 22 Years does not constitute "extending" a tradition. Its like saying KU has such tradition of bowl game appearances. Is Franky dillusional?

Day Shepherd 10 years ago

gchawk good call on the KState fans. I can give Frank Martin and the players a lot of respect but the fans make it so easy to hate them. KStaters needed to know what it is like to lose in a painful way. Perhaps they will show some awareness now and learn about what it is like to be a great team year after year. This year as a KU fan ended with disappointment but that is because we always expect the best and demonstrate a legacy that few programs can compete with. Great season KState, keep it up and you may actually be real adversaries.

P.S. Get rid of the stupid nicknames, Octagon of Doom (or as I lke to say Octagon of Dumb) and the Doberman Pinchers?

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years ago

Poor KY_Cats. Dude you can come join the loser's bracket.

Fruity22 10 years ago

Great day of college basketball!!!

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years ago

ESPN 2 showing Kentucky press conference. Cousins has to be the most childish and mentally small player.

optichawk 10 years ago

The best two teams are now gone which is a shame. The NCAA is so money hungry, it should invite Kansas and Kentucky to play each other the afternoon before the final game like they used to play the runner-up game. I think a lot of people would like to see that match up more than the two that will eventually play.

Theutus 10 years ago

optichawk if you're suggesting Kentucky was even a top 3 team this year, i disagree.

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years ago

optichawk: The loser's bracket game, which is what tournaments from the old days had.

BCRavenJHawkfan 10 years ago

I just took a peek at the 10 teams that could win it all that Jesse had on here through the season. Out of the 10 there are now 2 left.

KU2010CHAMPS 10 years ago

optichawk,

What a "Brilliant" idea.

Spencer Goff 10 years ago

So glad Duke got our bracket, so they didn't have to play a full strength, elite team until tomorrow.

Day Shepherd 10 years ago

Bad day for Wildcats in general! I'm feeling pretty good though.

Kyle Helmer 10 years ago

At least MU won something last year (Big 12 Tourney). KSU won absolutely nothing this year, went 0-3 against the top team in the Big 12, and columnists on this site and the KC Star treat them like they are the 2nd coming of the Wooden coached UCLA teams. They had a decent year, beat 15, 7, and 6 seeds in the tourney and then got bounced. They finished 29-8. Many schools consider this an average to slightly above average year. I'm glad they are gone (as well as UK). Now I can enjoy the rest of the tourney.

Go Baylor and RCJH!!!

Dyrk Dugan 10 years ago

way to go Butler Bulldogs! Playing in the FF in your front yard. you have made things right in the world again....tee he.

1983Hawk 10 years ago

Martin was badly outcoached yesterday, and that wasn't exactly John Wooden over on the other bench in terms of gravitas. KSuck is done. The grapes will never have another look at a Final Four, given that they couldn't finish in the weakest regional anyone has seen in at least 15 years against a 5 seed. All in Clemente and Colon's senior years. Boo, hoo -- all their legs were tired after 2ots the other night, and the altitude got 'em, too. And two more things make it even sweeter: (1) It all goes down on the day that Huggins celebrates his own Final Four berth, something the aging livestock in Mancrappin can't recall unless they were around during LBJ's days (maybe Wefald can come out of retirement and hold another sobbing presser about Huggy); and (2) I'm positive when they panned the crowd yesterday, I saw that KSuck dirtbag Keitzman right in the middle of em wearing a bright purple blazer no one had seen since the 80s. Feel the pain, purple douchebags. Feel ... the ... pain.

tical523 10 years ago

Losing Denis Clemente is a huge hit for the Cats, Pullen and everyone else for that matter won't be so open next year. Losing the fastest, and some could argue, most dangerous guard in the country is going to set the grapes back, he is worth atleast 3-4 wins by himself as a difference maker. Fast as Tony Parker or Ty Lawson, but shoots the ball at a much higher level than both those guys. I respect the hell out of his game and glad he is gone for our sake.

Joel Hood 10 years ago

Bad day for mildcats.

Last time KSU got this far - 1988 - lost to KU and just missed the final four. Now in 2010 - KSU loses 3 times to KU and has to see/listen to Bill Self after the game on CBS. Wow - I guess KU had a pretty good year after all.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0RPPJuP3EsE

FreddyinLA 10 years ago

Martin stole page 1 from the Self playbook on how to lose to mid-majors by slowing the game down to a crawl.

hawkinnebr 10 years ago

KU didn't go as far as Kansas ST. did. K-ST. had a real good year, and made a plan for new recruits. Good for them. KU had a good year but, was terribly disapointing as they just were over rated as a team. All that talent and can't get a team out of them.

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