No longer can Butler be called a Cinderella team.
For the second year in a row, Butler, a school with a total enrollment of 4,200 students, advanced to the Final Four in the NCAA tournament, defeating the Florida Gators in overtime, 74-71.
Once again, 34-year-old head coach Brad Stevens guided his team with brilliant strategy and his group of players put together a performance of steely proportions in the five-minute overtime.
It was the 13th-straight win for the Bulldogs, a team that once again proved that it may not necessarily be the best team that wins the NCAA tournament, but the hottest.
Butler will take on Virginia Commonwealth game in a national semifinal next Saturday.
Here are the five biggest keys to the Butler win over the Florida Gators.
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While Butler was not necessarily efficient at the foul line overall (.630 percentage), the Bulldogs were clutch when it counted.
Junior guard Ronald Nored hit four crucial free throws during the five-minute overtime session, and junior guard and team leader Shelvin Mack hit two clutch free throws with just 11 seconds left to give the Bulldogs a three-point lead. That forced the Gators to play for a second overtime rather than a win.
Shooting free throws under tremendous pressure gave Butler a distinct advantage, and both Nored and Mack came through for Butler when the Bulldogs most needed it.
At the end of regulation, the Florida Gators had an opportunity to win the game outright, with the balance clearly in their favor.
With 31 seconds left on the game clock, there was plenty of time to set a play with the shot clock turned off. However, Erving Walker inexplicably took an ill-advised three-point attempt that was well off the mark, sending the game into overtime.
There was the same scenario during overtime. With the Gators down by three and 10.6 seconds left, Erving Walker again hoisted a three-pointer with plenty of time left on the clock that was also off the mark, and the Gators were done.
With time clearly left on the clock in both situations, the Gators were in panic mode rather than calmly looking for a better opportunity.
In this particular contest, Butler forward Khyle Marshall had 10 points and seven rebounds.
Every one of the seven rebounds were on the offensive glass, and Marshall outmuscled Florida big men (Chandler Parson, Vernon Macklin, Alex Tyus) all afternoon when it most counted.
With 3:33 remaining in overtime, Marhsall grabbed an offensive rebound on a missed jump shot by Mack, put it back up, missed, grabbed the rebound again and put up a reverse lay-up, getting fouled on the play by Tyus.
Marshall converted the free throw for an important three-point lead at the time for Butler.
Chandler Parsons ended his night with five points on 2-for-9 shooting from the field, and he was largely held in check by a tenacious Butler defense in the frontcourt.
Parsons was essentially a non-factor in the second half and in overtime.
Credit Butler’s Matt Howard, Khyle Marshall and Andrew Smith for a tremendous team effort.
This was a win based on a complete team effort by Butler.
Unselfish play, a swarming defense and the steady hands of Mack and Howard kept the Bulldogs in focus when they most needed it.
Brad Stevens may have put together a terrific defensive scheme, but credit the players on the floor for carrying out his wishes and keeping composed under incredible pressure.
Cinderella tag? No longer.