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5 keys to Butler's NCAA Tournament win over Bucknell

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Bulldogs nail free throws to seal victory

Friday, March 22, 2013 - 12:56 pm

LEXINGTON - Butler (27-8) won its opening round game of the 2013 NCAA Tournament on Thursday at Rupp Arena 68-56 over 11th-seed Bucknell (28-6).

Here are five keys to the Bulldog victory:

1. Great post play

"Well, he's a really good player, obviously."

That quote was made by Butler senior center Andrew Smith regarding Bucknell counterpart Mike Muscala. However, it easily could've been made in reference to Smith.

Muscala entered the game leading the nation in double-doubles, yet it was Smith who finished with 14 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.

At the defensive end, Smith, and a horde of Bulldog teammates, held Muscala to just nine points, as he missed 13 of his 17 shot attempts.

2. What problems?

Bucknell made a 21-5 run on Butler in the second half and with just over 10 minutes remaining, led 37-31. However, Butler solved the Bison's defensive strategy of playing a triangle and two defense and responded with a 22-5 run and never looked back.

Earlier in the game, Butler missed its initial 13 3-point shots, but never panicked and sank three of its final four attempts.

3. Defense wins ... tournament games

The Bulldogs not only slowed Muscala, their defense slowed Bucknell, period.

The Bison connected on just 25.9 percent of its shots in the first half and only 37 percent for the game.

4. It's all 'free'

The free throw line played an integral part of Butler's win, as the Bulldogs made 25 of their 28 attempts.

Conversely, Bucknell got to the line just eight times.

Also, Butler was on fire when it was most important. The Bulldogs sank 16 of 18 free throws in the final three minutes, as the Bison were forced to try and foul to get back into the game.

5. Yeah, that guy

Alex Barlow wasn't even on scholarship for Butler until this semester, yet his importance on Thursday can't be overstated.

The sophomore point guard played 32 minutes in the win, made all six of his free throw attempts, scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds.

Oh yeah, for good measure, he was great defensively, also. He made a game-best four steals.