SAN JOSE, Calif. - Butler's Gordon Hayward instinctively left his man for a double-team, deflected a freshman's desperate pass and slammed Murray State's storybook shut.
Those rip-roaring Racers were awfully close to a second straight bracket-busting upset before the tournament-tested Bulldogs reminded them which small school almost always plays big in March.
Ronald Nored's three-point play snapped a tie with 25.4 seconds left, and Butler narrowly evaded a second stunner by the 13th-seeded Racers, advancing to the West regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament with a 54-52 victory yesterday. Butler plays the winner of Syracuse-Gonzaga in the Sweet 16.
Nored scored 15 points and Hayward had 12 before making the decisive defensive play for the fifth-seeded Bulldogs (30-4), who extended the nation's longest winning streak to 22 games and advanced to the round of 16 for the second time in four years. Said Hayward, "We did whatever we could to get the job done."
Butler overcame a second straight halftime deficit and finished on a 7-2 run in the final 2 1/2 minutes. The Bulldogs never got comfortable in a thriller against the undersized but big-hearted Racers (31-5), who beat fourth-seeded Vanderbilt in the first round on a last-second shot.
"I'm pretty sure it was in the back of everybody's mind, what they did to Vanderbilt," said Willie Veasley, who had 10 points. "We just had to contain their guards and get a stop and keep this thing going."
Murray State was down two with 17.2 seconds left. Isacc Miles' drive was stopped and then Isaiah Canaan, who was double-teamed by Hayward, made a frantic attempt at a perimeter pass went off Hayward's hand and rolled into the backcourt, sealing Butler's victory.