Butler Edges UCLA At 76 Classic

Sophomore Shelvin Mack posted his second consecutive 20-point scoring performance and Gordon Hayward hit two clutch free throws with less than a second left in the game to lift Butler to a 69-67 victory over UCLA in the consolation round of the 76 Classic in Anaheim, Calif., on Friday (Nov. 27).  The victory sends the Bulldogs (4-1) into the consolation finals against #19 Clemson on Sunday (Nov. 29).

Guard Jerime Anderson, who scored UCLA’s final five points, nailed a three-point field goal with 0:09 remaining to tie the game at 67-67.  The big shot capped a comeback by the Bruins (2-3), who erased an eight-point deficit in the final five minutes.

The Bulldogs didn’t hesitate, though, and quickly got the ball inbounds and into the hands of Hayward, who dribbled the length of the court.  The 6-9 forward drove to the basket as time was running out and was fouled as he attempted to get a shot off with 0:00.6 showing on the clock.  He went to the line and calmly made the first shot and then cashed the second for the final two-point margin.

“I was just trying to do whatever I could to get our team a win,” said Hayward after the game.  “When I looked up and had the ball, I didn’t realize that we didn’t have that much time left.  I was just trying to get the ball down the floor and get to the basket.”

Hayward’s final play ended a second half that saw the Bulldogs shoot just 28% from the field and just 9% from the three-point arc.  It was a complete turnaround from the first 20 minutes, when Butler shot 52% from the floor, 46% from the three-point arc and led by as many as 14 points.

Butler scored the first four points of the game on two free throws by Ronald Nored and two by Matt Howard.  The Bulldogs never trailed after that, though the game was tied twice in the first half and once in the final period.

The Bulldogs stretched the lead to 10 points, 21-11, on a pair of free throws with 9:14 left in the first half.  Mack then sparked a 9-2 run that gave Butler its biggest lead of the game at 30-14 with 7:38 left.  UCLA responded and cut the margin in half by halftime, 42-35.

“To me that was a great basketball game,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens. “You had two teams that, it looked like to me, wanted to play better than they had the night before.  Credit UCLA.  They played terrific.  The kid Anderson made huge plays at the end, and we’re extremely excited that we were able to respond and get the win that way.”

Mack, who scored 20 points in Butler’s loss to Minnesota in the first round of the eight-team tournament, finished with a game-high 21 points.  He hit six of 10 shots from the floor, including two of five from the three-point arc, and seven of nine from the free throw line.  Hayward added 11 points and eight rebounds.

Nikola Dragovic led UCLA with 14 points, while Malcolm Lee added 11.

The victory was Butler’s first over UCLA in nearly half a century.  The Bulldogs’ only other win against the Bruins came in 1959-60.