Bulldogs Advance Past UTEP To NCAA Second Round
San Jose, Calif. - Led by Shelvin Mack's 25 points, Butler drilled a flurry of 3-pointers on the way to outscoring UTEP 50-26 in the second half Thursday in a 77-59 victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The No. 5-seeded Bulldogs will play No. 13 seed Murray State on Saturday.
Mack hit a career-high seven 3-pointers and scored 18 of his 25 points after halftime Thursday evening, leading No. 5 seed Butler past UTEP in the first round of the NCAA tournament's West Regional. The Dogs will face Ohio Valley Conference champion Murray State, who defeated No. 4 seed Vanderbilt 66-65 on a buzzer-beater by Danero Thomas.
"Let me be the master of the obvious and say that when you hit (10) threes (three-point field goals) in a half, you have to feel pretty good about where you're headed," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
Sophomore Gordon Hayward added 13 points and junior Matt Howard had 11 as the Bulldogs (29-4) won their 21st straight game to extend the sport's longest active winning streak -- but only after a dynamic rally from a six-point halftime deficit. The Bulldogs made a 22-4 run after halftime led by Mack, who hit five 3-pointers in the first 11 minutes.
Derrick Caracter had 20 points and nine rebounds for UTEP, which won 16 straight games and a league title before a tournament loss to Houston last Saturday.
Randy Culpepper added 16 points, but the Miners' defense couldn't stop the patient outside shooting of the Bulldogs, who advanced in the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years.
Butler, which shot 10-for-13 from 3-point range after halftime, made a perfect run through the Horizon League, winning every conference game before also winning the tournament to capture a No. 5 seed in the NCAAs, matching the highest in school history. The Bulldogs have not lost since Dec. 22 at UAB and own the nation's longest winning streak with 21 consecutive victories.
Butler immediately took control after trailing by six at halftime, with Mack hitting two 3-pointers in the first 90 seconds. The Bulldogs took the lead on a 3-pointer by senior Willie Veasley, and after UTEP briefly went back ahead 37-36, Veasley's free throw started Butler on its decisive 13-0 run. BU's largest lead came in the final minute when a trey by Mack put the Dogs up 77-56. UTEP hit a 3-pointer seconds later to provide the final margin.