(Photo Credit: Nick Wass/AP)
Butler University fans have faced an emotionally tough summer this year. Nothing seems positive, from legendary head coach Brad Stevens abruptly leaving the basketball program for NBA powerhouse, Boston Celtics, to the recent depressing news circulating around the school’s iconic mascot, Blue II who announced he was dying from a heart disease.
However, let us not harp on the negatives this summer has brought, but of the positive situations that happened while Blue II was head mascot and coach Stevens led the Bulldogs on the basketball court.
Since the combination of Stevens, as head coach, and Blue II, as main mascot, was established back in 2007, the Bulldogs basketball squad have made countless and amazing memorable things happen. Especially the buzzer-beater game-winning or tying shots and generally game-winning shots. The many teams that came through between 2007-2013 had a knack for upsetting high-ranked and well-established basketball programs. During the 2010 and 2011 NCAA March Madness, the coined nickname, “Underdawgs,” was created for the Bulldogs because of their countless bracket-busting wins over top-seeded teams.
You know who was battling alongside the court during those amazing events? Stevens and Blue II.
So here’s a compilation of the top five most memorable events of Butler basketball dating back to 2007.
#5: Rotnei Clarke buzzer-beater against Marquette
Rotnei Clarke, Arkansas Razorback transfer, proved how and why he was the best in the nation for shooting. Clarke dribbled the ball quickly down the court with tremendous pressure. Less than a few seconds remained in the game, detailing Marquette on top 71-69. No doubt, Clarke figured he had to make a miracle shot to win the game. Two ferocious Golden Eagles could not stop that miracle shot from happening. Leaving his feet to avoid hitting the fingertips of the defense, Clarke released the ball causing him to fall onto his back into his bench. The bench did not care because he had just won the game off of that shot.
#4: Roosevelt Jones buzzer-beater against Gonzaga
Historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, home to the Butler Bulldogs, experienced its first ever ESPN College GameDay visit. To say this game was nerve-wracking would be an understatement. Butler was down 63-62 with less than five seconds left. An inbounded ball and a misstep dropped Bulldog players’ and fans’ jaws. Alex Barlow had lifted up his pivot foot causing him to travel, resulting in a foul. Gonzaga had the ball. Only seconds remained, so Gonzaga only needed to inbound the ball and contain it or receive a foul to shoot free-throws. However, this was the opposite of what happened. A misjudged inbound fluttered the ball into the hands of Roosevelt Jones who stormed towards the hoop. With only time left for a buzzer-beater shot, Jones released a shot that flushed right through the basket and gave Butler the win.
#3: Matt Howard buzzer-beater against Old Dominion in the first round of the 2011 NCAA tournament
The first buzzer-beater of the 2011 NCAA Basketball tournament was credited to Matt Howard of Butler. With the game knotted at 58, the Bulldogs shoved their offense down Old Dominion’s throats. After Shawn Vanzant unsuccessfully drove to the hoop, tripping and causing him to release the ball off the backboard, Butler fans thought the game was headed into overtime. However, the height of Andrew Smith lifted him to bank the ball out to an oncoming Matt Howard who deftly slipped the basketball into the hoop with only mere tenths of a second in final play.
#2: Butler defeats Kansas State in the 2010 NCAA tournament to advance the Bulldogs to their first ever Final Four appearance.
Butler fans were on cloud nine. The Bulldogs had shut down No. 1 Syracuse only two days before their elite eight game. At this point, fans could not complain or sulk over a loss in the elite eight. Nonetheless, fans were again filled with excitement and glee as Butler held on and closed up the game with a win making it the first elite eight win in program history.
#1: Upsetting No. 1 Pittsburgh in the Second Round of the 2011 NCAA tournament
Foul. Point. Foul. Point. Those were the last four plays resulting in a Butler win over top-seeded Pitt. With only seconds remaining Andrew Smith received the ball and banked it in to give the Bulldogs a 70-69 lead. However, surprisingly enough Shelvin Mack mistakenly pressured a Pittsburgh offender and fouled him. Less than two seconds remained and Butler fans feared Mack just gave the game away. The first basket was good. The second basket bounced out to the hands of Matt Howard who was fouled almost instantaneously. 0.8 seconds remained when Howard scored to take back the lead 71-70. After defeating Old Dominion in a buzzer-beater days before, the Bulldogs did what they do best, win in dramatic fashion.