Butler advanced to the Maui Invitational championship with an 82-71 upset win over No. 9 North Carolina Tuesday night.
"A tale of two halves" doesn't even really begin to describe it.
The Bulldogs controlled the first 30 minutes of the game, outworking, out-hustling, out-rebounding and pretty much out-doing the Tar Heels in every aspect of the game. Brad Stevens' team looked fired up and ready to go, while Roy Williams' squad was flat as a pancake. With 11:18 to go, the Bulldogs led by a score of 62-34.
But after increasing the defensive pressure and catching fire from the field, the Heels went on a ridiculous 37-15 run to cut Butler's lead to six with just over a minute to play.
It was too little, too late for UNC, however, as the Bulldogs knocked down some key free throws and escaped with the win. They will play the winner of Illinois and Chaminade in the final, while the Tar Heels get the loser for a shot at third place.
Monday's buzzer-beating hero Rotnei Clarke and highly touted freshman Kellen Dunham led Butler with 17 points each, while P.J. Hairston poured in 15 off the bench for UNC.
With the exception of the final 10-minute letdown by Butler, this was an absolute onslaught. An incredibly dominant performance. The preseason ranking that put the Bulldogs in the middle of the Atlantic-10 pack is looking a little silly right now.
Meanwhile, North Carolina's extreme youth reared its ugly head. The team wasn't in it from the beginning, and there was no one to pick up the pieces. Not even All-America candidate James Michael McAdoo, who had 10 points and an ugly seven turnovers.
Still though, these bumps were mostly expected coming into the year, and you can bet Coach Williams won't accept many more of these performances.
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