Cold shooting ruins Butler's title hopes

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HOUSTON --- Butler couldn't go inside. It couldn't score from outside. Its shots were blocked all night.

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Butler's Shawn Vanzant tries to pass the ball to Shelvin Mack as Connecticut's Roscoe Smith defends during the second half. The Bulldogs shot just 19 percent in the loss to the Huskies.   Associated Press
Associated Press
Butler's Shawn Vanzant tries to pass the ball to Shelvin Mack as Connecticut's Roscoe Smith defends during the second half. The Bulldogs shot just 19 percent in the loss to the Huskies.

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 19 percent, and managed just 12 field goals in its 53-41 loss to Connecticut on Monday night.

Shelvin Mack, who'd averaged almost 22 points in the first five games, was held to 13 points, and leading scorer Matt Howard had seven on 1 of 13 shooting.

The Bulldogs (28-10) were hoping to avenge last year's heartbreak, when Gordon Hayward's half-court shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim in a 61-59 loss to Duke.

Instead, Butler showed why the little guys have never won the biggest prize.

UConn's big men Alex Oriakhi, Tyler Olander and Charles Okwandu didn't let the Bulldogs anywhere near the paint.

Whenever a Butler player did get close to the rim, one of the Huskies was there to muscle the ball away or force an off-balance shot.

That UConn finished with a 26-2 edge scoring in the paint was a surprise only in that Butler actually got a basket inside.

Things weren't much better elsewhere on the floor.

The Bulldogs had two other buckets from inside the arc, and they were 9 of 33 from 3-point range. They had scoring droughts that lasted what seemed like an eternity.

As the UConn players raced off the bench and confetti fell, Butler quietly left the court, disappointed yet again -- but in an entirely different way.

Butler shot just 22 percent in the first half, and had no points in the paint or on the fast break, yet still managed to take a 22-19 lead thanks to Mack's 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

As the ball swished through the net, he turned and screamed at the Butler bench, and did a flying chest bump with Ronald Nored as they ran off the court.

But that would be about it for the highlights. After Chase Stigall opened with a 3 in the second half, the Bulldogs would make only one more field goal over the next 12-plus minutes.

Not that they didn't have their chances, but the basket may as well have been a slit for as much success as they had.

The Huskies, meanwhile, figured out a way to break Butler's oppressive defense and started making their shots -- just enough of them to deliver a national championship.


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