Butler fans have endured many heart-stopping moments throughout this NCAA Tournament run. Most have had to do with shots going in or out. But a couple of those scary plays came courtesy of injuries.
In the Bulldogs' 61-54 win over Wisconsin on Thursday, Butler center Andrew Smith came down awkwardly and had a gruesome-looking ankle turn. In Saturday's 74-71 overtime victory against Florida, it was Shelvin Mack who made the Bulldog Nation start praying for healing powers. Mack was driving on a fast break. When he went to explode toward the rim, his ankle gave out and sent him limping toward the sideline.
“It was a physical game,” Mack said. “That's what the NCAA Tournament is about.”
Mack and Smith were both able to return after brief periods. Mack also had a cut on his forehead and had to be continually bandaged up late in the contest.
“I really don't know what happened,” Mack said. “I just walked back to the huddle and I was bleeding. I have to expect it to be a hard-fought, physical game.”
Record says otherwise
Butler men's basketball coach Brad Stevens said during the postgame news conference Saturday that he had been out-coached by his counterpart, Gators coach Billy Donovan. But even after he repeated it a few times, few understood what he was talking about.
“I got out-coached pretty thoroughly,” Stevens said. “We're just lucky that our guys are good players.”
In his four seasons in leading the Bulldogs, Stevens has an incredible postseason record and has his team in its second straight Final Four, so the media at the post-game news conference wanted more explanation as to just exactly how he was out-coached.
“As far as being out-coached, I just thought that they did a great job,” Stevens said. “I have a lot of respect for how those guys rebounded. They mixed up their defenses on us. We didn't start attacking off of the bounce until 10 minutes left in the game, which was the key to attacking that zone.”
Florida had opportunities for the final shot in both regulation and overtime, but Gator guard Kenny Boynton made a questionable decision in the extra session. Florida gained possession with 29 seconds left in overtime and his team trailing 72-71. Instead of waiting until the final seconds to run a play for a game-winning shot, as the Gators did in regulation (a miss by Erving Walker), Boynton jacked up a 24-foot heave with 19 seconds still remaining. Butler got the rebound and was able to seal the victory with free throws.
“I thought in regulation we got (guard) Erving Walker a great look,” Donovan said. “I would have liked to see Kenny drive the ball. But he's made some shots in really, really key situations for us.”
Stevens took the high road in his assessment of both plays, but he did admit to liking the overtime attempt.
“I don't try and coach anyone else's team,” Stevens said. “I understand what they were doing at the end of regulation. I was scared when that shot went up. (But) I wasn't scared when Boynton's last shot that he heaved from about 80 feet went up.”