Bulldogs Edge Florida State, 67-64

HONOLULU, HAWAII -- Junior Shelvin Mack scored all of his 17 points in the second half to help Butler hold on to a 67-64 victory over Florida State in the semifinals of the 2010 Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center on Thursday, Dec. 23.  The win sends the Bulldogs into the title game against Washington State on Christmas Day.

Mack, who missed all five shots that he attempted in the first half, opened the second half with seven straight points and lifted Butler from a two-point deficit to a 28-25 lead.  He helped the Bulldogs stretch the lead to double-figures and then gave Butler it’s biggest lead of the game at 51-36 with a three-point field goal at 9:29.

The 6-3 guard hit four of five shots from beyond the three-point arc in the final period, and he added five of six from the free throw line

“I was frustrated a little bit in the first half, but I just kept believing in myself,” said Mack after the game.  “I’ve made thousands of shots, and I knew I just had to keep shooting.”

The Bulldogs (8-4) needed every one of Mack’s points, because Florida State unleashed an even hotter hand in the final 20 minutes.  Forward Chris Singleton, who scored just two points in the first half, began to launch shots from every part of the court, and he single-handedly brought the Seminoles back into the game.  The 6-9 junior scored 26 points in the final 20 minutes, including six of nine from well beyond the three-point arc.

The Seminoles (10-3) cut Butler’s 15-point lead to 60-56 with 0:51 remaining, but the Bulldogs held on by hitting seven of eight free throw attempts in the final minute.  Junior Ronald Nored hit three from the charity stripe, while seniors Matt Howard and Zach Hahn cashed two apiece.

“We held off a good team and a hot team,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.  “I thought we did a pretty good job all game of doing what we wanted to do defensively, but man they just started making shots.  We had to adjust a little bit, but they just kept on making shots.”

Butler’ defense was extremely effective early in the contest.  The Bulldogs held Florida State to just seven points in the first 13 minutes of the contest and to just 19 points in the first 20 minutes.  But the Bulldogs also struggled against the rangy Seminoles and carried just a two-point advantage, 21-19, at halftime.

Florida State erased that lead early in the second half on a free throw by Xavier Gibson and Singleton’s first three-point field goal, before Mack heated up.

Howard led Butler in scoring for the fourth straight game, finishing with 19 points.  He scored 13 in the second half to help keep the Bulldogs on top.  The 6-8 forward also topped the Bulldogs in rebounding with nine.  Sophomore Chase Stigall came off the bench and tallied a career-high 11 points, including three field goals from beyond the three-point arc.  Butler hit 10 three-pointers in the win.

The Bulldogs will square off against Washington State for the tournament title at 9:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.  The game will be televised on ESPN2.