Horizon League: Butler/Cleveland St Advance to Finals

March 8th, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS --  Twenty minutes after the game and Wright State coach Brad Brownell was still seething as he took questions about his team's 62-57 loss to the 22nd ranked team in the latest AP Poll.

Wright State had scored 22 field goals to Butler's 17 field goals, out-shot Butler from beyond the arc by making eight 3-pointers to four for Butler and committed just eight turnovers to Butler's 10 turnovers.

The Raiders held all five of Butler's starters to under 50 percent shooting.

The only wrinkle in Wright State's plan to upset Butler on their home court was that Butler went 24-31 from the free throw line and Wright State was just 5-8.  Butler's Matt Howard was an outstanding 14-15 from the free throw line and he led all scorers with 28 points.

The free throws were the difference in this game.

But the Raiders fought until the end and the Bulldogs worked very hard to keep the Raiders at bay.  There was no quit in either team.

With 15 seconds left Wright State's Todd Brown got the ball with a chance to tie the game at 59 points, faked, got his defender in the air, then got off a shot, but it never even found iron and Butler held on to make it to the final championship game.

It is all Wright State could ask for, their best player on the court had the ball with a chance to tie the game, but he didn't make the shot. 

The Butler crowd roared as Brown's shot missed its mark.

When asked about the free throw differential between the teams Brownell simply said he would have to check the tape to take a look at all the fouls called on his team.   He certainly was not eager to talk about it or publically blame it for his team's loss.  He did point out how his team kept fighting until the end.

He said, "I am unbelievably proud of my team, not only in this game, but all season.  Several times Butler jumped out on us and had a chance to put us away, but we bounced back.  There in the last minute we had every chance to win the game and a couple of things went against us and Butler won."

One of the things that went against the Raiders was the fifth foul called on Cory Cooperwood when he was called for a foul when he bumped Haywood going for a ball with 41 seconds left.

"That is exactly what we thought it would be.  They are playing great basketball.  They are extremely well coached.  They are playing very confidently," said Butler coach Brad Stevens.   

For Butler, they held Brown to just eight points on 4-13 shooting.  Nored was on him most of the night, but they switched up some and Shelvin Mack and Willie Veasley guarded him tight too.

With Butler up 50-42 Mack hit a 3-pointer to put the Bulldogs up by 11 points and that was the last field goal Butler would score in the game.   From that point on it was all field goals for Butler (26-4).  They went 9-12 to close out the game.

Wright State scratched and clawed until they got within two with at 58-56 with 1:14 left.  Butler then sank five of six free throws to put the game away.

In the first half Wright State (20-13) scored the first basket on a jumper by Brown.  The plan by Wright State was to not to get in a hole, to not to let Butler get a comfortable lead.  The Raiders wanted to sew some seeds of doubt in the minds of Butler's players that Butler could dominate the Raiders they way they did the last two games.

That plan started to fall apart as Butler scored the next seven points largely behind the play of Matt Howard.  Not only did he score points but he got several key rebounds. 

Butler was able to get the crowd in the game and they were loud.  It made for a tough atmosphere for the Raiders.

After the first media timeout two of Butler's bench players came in and gave the Bulldogs a quick lift. Zach Hahn hit a 3-pointer and Garr Butcher took a feed from Gordon Haywood and hit a jumper to put Butler up 12-3 at the 14:41 mark.

After that the Raiders started to chip away at Butler's lead until at the 7:43 mark Troy Tabler hit a 3-pointer to cap off a 16-3 run and give the Raiders their biggest lead of the game at 19-16.

But Butler as they did all game answered Wright State's little run and regained the lead.  They went into halftime up by four at 32-28.       

Corey Cooperwood led Wright State with 11 points going 5-6 from the field in just 17 minutes of play.

For Butler it was just another night of doing what they do best....................winning.


Cleveland upsets Green Bay

It took overcoming a 12 point deficit but Cleveland State took down Green Bay, the No. 2 seed 73-67 in the second game tonight at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

The Phoenix controlled the game almost 75 percent of the game, it was the last 25 percent that got a little tricky for them.

At the half Green Bay led 39-33 largely on the 16 first half points by Mike Schachter and 11 points by Ryan Tillema.   Those were Schachter's only points of the game.

Cleveland State tired pressing Green Bay but it didn't work and in fact it hurt them as Green Bay sent their shooters down the court rather than have them help to break the press.  So they had Tillema and Schachter down court waiting for the ball when the press was broken, they shot and made several 3-pointers.  So the Vikings gave up on the press.

"We started out pressing and they were ready for it. When you press someone is open.  They ran their shooters down the court.  They didn't take the ball up the court so at the end of the press they are down there shooting threes," said Cleveland State coach Gary Waters.     

Cleveland State (24-10) was able to stay close keeping the deficit to single digits until the 10:48 mark when Cleveland State's Cedric Jackson hit a 3-pointer put the Vikings up 52-50.  Green Bay never was able to regain the lead.

Green Bay coach Tod Kowacxyk felt his team just ran out of gas late in the game with Cleveland State's physical play wearing them down.

He said, "Unfortunately we ran out of gas.  The first half we played pretty well and moved the ball.  In the second half it was a very physical game."

Green Bay (22-10) held the Vikings to only foul shots, but no field goals during the last six minutes of the game.

For Green Bay Norris Cole scored 24 points and for Green Bay Tillema led scorers with 21 points.     



-On the way in to the game tonight the song Pressure by Billy Joel came on the radio and it made me think about the first game tonight.  All the pressure was on Wright State tonight.  Sure, Butler is playing for a good seed in the NCAA Tournament, but Wright State got handled twice this year by Butler.  This game was it for them unless they won.  Their 20 wins won't get them in the NIT orNCAA's.

-Horizon League Commissioner Jon LeCrone circulated freely among the media in the media room stopping to talk with almost everyone and answer questions about all-things Horizon League or NCAA related.

-LeCrone said that the Horizon League did a top to bottom five-year review of the current and unique league tournament after last season.  The conclusion was that the format was an outstanding success.  He pointed out that the attendance was up, the television exposure increased and the Horizon League has experienced more post-season success.  So game on, the format will be around for awhile.  Now there is a possibility that the Horizon League may make some small adjustments to the format, but the concept will remain intact.

-Butler is playing in the Horizon League semifinals for the 11th time in the past 13 years.

-20 wins.. Wright State has posted its third straight 20-win season in a row.  For Butler it is eleven 20-win seasons in the last 13 years.  For Cleveland State it s their  second straight year posting 20 wins and for Green Bay it is their first time in nine years. 

-Cleveland State's D'Aundray Brown is out for the rest of the season with a damaged ACL in his knee, but that didn't prevent him from hobbling over to the media seating area to grab a vacant seat and watch a little of the Butler/Wright State game.  At halftime he didn't have a prediction for how it might turn out.  He said, "This game could go either way.  So far, every time Wright State tried to make a run, Butler would answer." 

-Cleveland State is the first team to make it to the Horizon League Championship game twice without the benefit of a double bye since the Horizon League went to this tournament format six years ago.

-Kowalczyk predicted that Butler would win against Cleveland State on Tuesday night because they are the better team.

-Kowalczyk also said his team was not done playing this year.  He said, "I am a firm believer we are still the second best team in this league and we deserve to play in the NIT.  We've got 22 wins and we played down a man tonight."

-Butler swept Wright State three times for the first time since 1999.  According to David Wood (the king of obscure statistics) of the Indy Star in the last decade Butler has been to the NCAA more times (5) and had more Sweet Sixteen appearances (2) that 3-game sweeps of the Raiders........very interesting.