MILWAUKEE – The clock struck 12 on Middle Tennessee State’s season Saturday night.
After consecutive first-round losses in the NCAA Tournament the past two years, Butler got over the proverbial hump and reached the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010 with a 74-65 win over the Blue Raiders at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.
“I’m really proud of our guys,” Butler coach Chris Holtmann said. “We beat a really good team in Middle Tennessee. We have so much respect for how Kermit’s team plays and how they compete. I loved the fight we showed possession after possession.
“I had a coach friend of mine send me a clip yesterday of CBS Sports Network saying we weren’t good enough to beat them; that we didn’t have good enough players to beat Middle Tennessee. I would like to call those guys out. I would love to, but I won’t. I didn’t show that to our guys, but it burned me up.”
Led by Kelan Martin with 12 points and Kamar Baldwin with 11, Butler (25-8) led the bulk of the first half en route to a 36-31 lead. The Bulldogs shot 50 percent in the half, including 67 percent from beyond the arc.
Martin, who went 4-for-5 from the field, had seven straight points in a shade over a minute to give Butler its biggest lead of the half, 35-22, with 4:28 remaining.
Middle Tennessee’s JaCorey Williams, who had 11 in the first half, responded with a surge of his own. He scored six straight points to make it 35-28, and after a free toss by Baldwin, Reggie Upshaw drained a 3 from the left corner to make it 36-31.
Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz was almost non-existent in the first half. He scored two points and picked up two fouls.
The Butler big man came alive in the second half, scoring 11 of his team-high 13 points. He went 4-for-4 from the field, including a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Butler never lost its lead in the second half, but MTSU made it interesting. The Blue Raiders closed to 59-56 on two free throws by Brandon Walters with 3:40 left. A 3 by Chrabascz and Tyler Lewis extended the lead to 64-56 with 2:58 left.
Middle Tennessee (31-5) got the deficit down to five a couple of times (64-59 and 66-61), but the Blue Raiders never got closer than six the rest of the way.
Williams led the Blue Raiders with 20 and guard Antwain Johnson added 19. Missing was Giddy Potts, who went 0-for-8 from the floor.
“Butler played terrific,” MTSU coach Kermit Davis said. “They came in 15 for their last 50 from 3, and they just got off to a great, hot start, and I thought they were physical. We kind of chased them the whole game.
“I told our guys how much fun they brought to Middle Tennessee fans and myself. The 31 wins is an unbelievable feat. We are all heartbroken. We wanted to get back to our home state in Memphis and play in the Sweet 16.”
PURDUE 80, IOWA STATE 76
After heartbreaking first-round losses the past two years in the NCAA, the Boilermakers got over the hump to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2010.
It wasn’t easy, however.
The Boilermakers blew a 15-point halftime lead, but got a big jump shot from Vince Edwards with 1:36 left and two big free throws from P.J. Thompson in the last 7 seconds to finish off the Cyclones.
“Well, unbelievable game,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “Iowa State is a great basketball team, and they showed that in the second half.
“I thought our guys kept their poise. We got key offensive rebounds in the last three or four minutes and made some key plays. It was great to see P.J. Thompson there at the end knock down those two free throws.”
Trailing 73-71 with 3:11 left, Thompson knocked down a 3-pointer to give Purdue the lead for good. After an Iowa State miss, Caleb Swanigan scored on a lay-up and Edwards scored off an ISU turnover to make it 78-73 with 1:36 remaining.
Deonte Burton scored on a lay-up with 53.7 remaining to make it 78-75, and Purdue’s Dakota Mathias missed at the other end. Monte Morris made it 78-76 when he made the front end of the 1-and-1, but he missed the back end.
Mathias could have iced the game 10 seconds later, but he missed the front end of a bonus situation. Purdue got the rebound and Thompson was fouled with 7.7 left. He made both to close out the Cyclones.
Purdue led the bulk of the first half. The Cyclones closed to 29-26 with 3:45 left on a 3-ball by Matt Thomas and a lay-up by Burton. Purdue retaliated with a 14-3 half-ending run to go up 44-29.
Edwards hit two big jump shots and Mathias drained two 3-pointers to spark the surge.
“Our guys played a really good first half,” Painter said. “We did a good job of picking our spots. I thought we got the ball where we wanted. I thought in the second half we had some good looks that didn’t go in.”
Swanigan had a double-double with 20 points and 12 rebounds as did Edwards, who scored 21 and pulled down 10 rebounds. Isaac Haas finished with 14 points in his 15-minute stint.
Burton finished with 25 and Matt Thomas added 20. Morris had 18 points and nine assists.