No. 25 Wis.-Green Bay 73, Butler 66, OT
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) _ Green Bay’s own ``Fab Four″ provided one last fantastic finish for the home crowd Saturday.
Ben Berlowski scored six of his 23 points in the closing seconds of overtime as No. 25 Wisconsin-Green Bay beat Butler 73-66 for its 22nd consecutive victory and school-record 15th straight win at home.
Berlowski was one of four seniors honored in postgame ceremonies. The group of undersized overachievers have played all 118 games in their college careers, elevating the program to its surprising status as a national power.
The others are: point guard Eric Jackson, who had six 3-pointers and 20 points; forward Gary Grzesk, whose defense saved the game in regulation; and Jeff Nordgaard, who was held to 13 points but finished the regular season with an average of 23.6, the school’s highest in 25 years.
The pumped-up Phoenix overcame a rocky start and a late charge to keep alive the nation’s second-longest winning streak, behind No. 2 Kentucky, which has won 23 straight.
``We’ve kind of adopted UMass’s saying `Refuse to Lose,‴ Grzesk said.
``We were fortunate to win it,″ first-year coach Mike Heideman said. ``As has occurred all season with this team, they had a will to win. I was worried about the emotion. I thought that was part of the reason we came out flat. It was a hard game and it meant so much to them to play well.″
``You want to play the perfect game on senior night,″ said Nordgaard, who missed 11 of 16 shots. ``It was kind of difficult because everyone was trying to make perfect plays.″
But Berlowski’s flawless finish capped Green Bay’s incredible regular season.
Green Bay (24-2, 16-0 Midwestern Collegiate Conference) will be the top seed in next weekend’s league tourney in Dayton, Ohio. Butler (19-7, 12-4) is the No. 2 seed.
The four seniors embraced on the court after the game following a tribute that included congratulations from Heideman and a noisy sellout crowd of 6,000 at the Brown County Arena.
One fan held a sign using parts of the four seniors’ names to spell out ``Special.″ Other placards read: ``These are the glory years,″ and ``On to the Big Dance.″
Another simply said: ``Thanks for the memories.″
And what remembrances these four will leave.
The last two years, they led the Phoenix to the NCAA tournament, where they knocked off Jason Kidd and Cal as sophomores in 1994 before losing a close game to Syracuse.
Last year, they overcame the loss of five seniors to reach the tournament again, where they fell by a point to powerful Purdue.
This week, they guided Green Bay to its first-ever Top 25 ranking.
Since a 13-14 freshman year, the four have piloted the Phoenix to a 73-17 mark, including four overtime wins during the current streak.
They capped it off with a spirited effort Saturday.
The Phoenix fought off a second-half charge from the Bulldogs, held on to send the game into overtime and then kept Butler from scoring until 7.8 seconds remained in the extra period.
Jackson’s 3-pointer with 2:13 left broke a 64-64 tie and Berlowski’s basket with 32 seconds left made it 69-64.
Berlowski added four free throws in the final 18 seconds. The Phoenix made all 16 of their foul shots. The Bulldogs hit 15 of 19.
John Neuhouser, who was hounded much of the second half by Grzesk’s defense, led Butler with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Reserve Matthew Graves added 14.
Both teams blew chances to win in the closing seconds of regulation.
The Bulldogs inbounded the ball with 12 seconds left and the game tied at 64. Kevin Olm knocked it away from Jeff Rogers and Neuhouser grabbed it but stepped out of bounds. Grzesk then missed a tough shot at the buzzer.
``He got a lot of ball but a little arm,″ Rogers said. ``But a call like that isn’t going to get called with six seconds left.″
In overtime, Grzesk kept Neuhouser from getting any good looks at the basket.
``We would not be 24-2 without Gary Grzesk,″ Heideman said.
Or Eric Jackson, Jeff Nordgaard and Ben Berlowski.