Butler uses late surge to put away Texas 56-48
PITTSBURGH (AP) — Butler’s coach Chris Holtmann caught sight of his 4-year-old daughter Nora bouncing around in the aftermath of his first NCAA Tournament victory as a head coach, oblivious to exactly what her daddy and his players have done over the last five months.
“She has no idea what just happened,” Holtmann said with a laugh.
It’s Butler. It’s March. Winning and defying expectations is just what the Bulldogs do.
Kellen Dunham scored 20 points, including a pivotal 3-pointer with 1:18 to play, and sixth-seeded Butler churned out a 56-48 victory over 11th-seeded Texas on Thursday.
The Bulldogs (23-10) advanced to play third-seeded Notre Dame on Saturday despite going more than 10 minutes without making a shot and draining all of five field goals in the second half.
“We just fight and grind them out,” Butler forward Kameron Woods said. “We knew it was going to be a grind and that’s what we tried to make this game.”
It’s a formula the Bulldogs have recaptured this season under Holtmann, who took over in October when Brandon Miller stepped away for medical reasons and never returned. The school removed the “interim” tag from Holtmann’s title in January and Butler responded with a strong run through the Big East to a seventh NCAA appearance in the last nine years.
Now the guy who left his head coaching job at Gardner-Webb two years ago to become an assistant under Miller is now the latest in an increasingly long list of unassuming men to lead Butler past another power conference foe in the Big Dance, joining Thad Matta and Brad Stevens.
“I say there’s not a group I’d rather do this with, this journey, this season, than with this group,” Holtmann said. “They have embraced, certainly, this whole dynamic, this new dynamic for them.”
The Longhorns (20-14) added to a miserable day for the vaunted Big 12. Texas joined Baylor and Iowa State, both No. 3 seeds, as early tournament exits after struggling all afternoon to find any rhythm, a microcosm of another disappointing season.
Jonathan Holmes led the Longhorns with 15 points and Isaiah Taylor added 14 but Texas shot just 34 percent from the field and turned it over 15 times while failing to make it beyond the first weekend of the NCAAs for the seventh straight year.
“I’m disappointed because I’d like to see us, obviously, dancing in this tournament,” coach Rick Barnes said. “If you know anything about basketball, this tournament’s not given to anybody.”
Certainly not the Longhorns, who trailed for much of the game but drew within 44-43 on a pullup jumper by Taylor with 2:42 to play. Texas would get no closer. Dunham knocked down a free throw and then hit a 3-pointer from the right wing to make it 48-43. Dunham shook his right index finger as he trotted down the court in celebration.
“The coaches last night said we don’t have to play perfect,” Butler guard Alex Barlow said. “It doesn’t have to be pretty. All we have to do is win one more possession than Texas.”
Butler’s most notable coaching alumni took time from his current job to watch the Bulldogs pull off another mild upset over the Longhorns, who were favored by 1.5 points. Brad Stevens, currently the head coach of the NBA’s Boston Celtics who guided Butler to consecutive berths in the national title game in 2010 and 2011, tweeted “Way to go Dawgs!! March on!” after the final buzzer sounded.
Texas: The Longhorns led the nation in blocks and finished with five to give them 265 on the season. ... Freshman Myles Turner was limited to two points and 10 rebounds on 1-of-5 shooting in 16 minutes.
Butler: Forward Roosevelt Jones had six points and four assists in 29 minutes. He left with a lower leg injury early in the second half but returned to hit a banking shot in traffic that gave the Bulldogs a 44-37 lead. “He’s a big part of our success, a big part of our team,” Barlow said of Jones. “When he came back he gave us that little bit of extra juice that we can always use. He just came in and gave us a lift.” ... Butler shot just 33 percent (16 of 48) but outscored Texas 20-8 at the free throw line.
Texas: loses Holmes to graduation and faces several other key questions, most notably Barnes’ future and whether Turner will test the waters as a professional.
Butler: vs. Notre Dame on Saturday.