Houston Butler couldn’t go inside. It couldn’t score outside. Its shots were blocked all night long.
Forget the last-second heave.
When it came to winning this championship, the Bulldogs played down to their size.
Butler set a record for worst shooting percentage in the NCAA title game, a woeful 18.8 percent, and managed the second-fewest field goals, making only 12 baskets in its 53-41 loss to Connecticut on Monday night.
It is the second straight year the Bulldogs (28-10) finish as runners-up after a 61-59 loss to Duke last year.
“You just hope the shots go in,” said senior Zach Hahn, who went 0-for-2 after giving Butler a big lift off the bench in the semifinals. “That’s how it’s been all tournament. Whenever we needed a big shot, somebody came up with it. I guess we just ran out of steam. Nobody could make ’em.”
Shelvin Mack, who averaged almost 22 points in the first five games in the tournament, was Butler’s only player to finish in double figures — and he managed only 13 points, on 4-of-15 shooting. Leading scorer Matt Howard made his only field goal about five minutes into the game, finishing with seven points on 1-of-13.
It was Howard’s fewest points since scoring six in the season opener against Marian. But he only played 23 minutes that night.
“This one is pretty frustrating, just personally,” the senior said. “I wish, from my standpoint, that I was able to give a little bit more to my team.”
The Bulldogs were hoping to reverse last year’s heartbreak, when Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim. Give little guys everywhere hope, too. After all, if a school with 4,500 students that plays in the Horizon League can win the national title, what’s stopping every other team playing in the mid-majors?
Instead, Butler showed why the little guys have it so tough.