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Butler upsets No. 1 seed Syracuse in NCAA Tournament

SALT LAKE CITY — Butler became the latest mid major to knock off a top seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Willie Veasley scored five of his 13 points during an 11-0 run down the stretch, and the Bulldogs rallied to upset No. 1 seed Syracuse 63-59 Thursday night in the West Region semifinals for their 23rd straight victory.

The fifth-seeded Bulldogs (31-4) fought through Syracuse's vaunted zone defense and kept the Orange (30-5) from getting its fast break going most of the night.

After reaching the region finals for the first time, Butler is one win from going home to Indianapolis for the Final Four.

Gordon Hayward scored 17 and started the celebration while dribbling out the clock after the Bulldogs forced Syracuse into its 18th turnover.

"We said this word over and over in Indianapolis, and that word is 'resolve.' These guys have resolve," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "It's hard to measure, but they've got it."

Wes Johnson had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Orange. There were some mild boos when the score was announced at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, N.Y., where West Virginia beat Washington in an East Region semifinal.

Scoop Jardine added 14 points and five assists and Andy Rautins scored 15, including a 3-pointer to open the second half. That sent the Orange on a 15-4 run and its first lead.

But the sloppy Orange couldn't overcome all of its turnovers, and the 2-3 zone was no match for the Bulldogs' sharp shooting after Syracuse had taken a 54-50 lead with 5:23 left.

Ronald Nored hit a 3-pointer, Matt Howard scored inside to put the Bulldogs back ahead and then Veasley got a fortunate bounce off the rim and backboard before his 3-pointer dropped through.

"I was headed down the court on defense because I figured it was going to go over the top of the backboard. But I looked back and it came down and went through," Veasley said. "That was a H-O-R-S-E shot. I've never made a shot quite like that."

Veasley added a tip-in on Butler's next possession.

After leading by 12 in the first half, the Horizon League champions were in jeopardy of getting run over by the Orange. But Syracuse could never get its transition game going.

Butler was just 6-for-24 from 3-point range, but it never stopped shooting from beyond the arc — and hustling back on defense.

Syracuse had one good break late in the second half and it turned out to be the last. After a 3-pointer by Rautins put his team up 52-50, Johnson grabbed a rebound and got the Orange off and running on the kind of fast break it flashed all season.

Johnson passed to Jardine, who got the ball to Kris Joseph for a dunk with 5:23 left.

The Orange didn't score again until 35 seconds were left.

"The game was a story of turnovers. They didn't make turnovers," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "They were really good with the basketball. We just had 18 turnovers and you can't give away that many possessions."

Syracuse played again without center Arinze Onuaku, sidelined since the Big East tournament with a right quadriceps injury, and had to sit 6-foot-9 Rick Jackson when he was called for his fourth foul with 8:08 left.

Jackson finished with four points and nine rebounds.

midwest: The last time Tennessee faced Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament, the Buckeyes had a roster that made NBA general managers drool, with Greg Oden dominating inside and Mike Conley making sure everything flowed smoothly.

Must be a relief to the Volunteers that they won't have to see those guys again tonight?

Yeah, right.

The second-seeded Buckeyes (29-7) might look a lot different than they did when they held off the Vols in the region semifinals three years ago, but they're no less formidable. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl said this Ohio State squad might be more daunting.

"They're a more difficult team to game plan for," Pearl said Thursday.

Evan Turner is the star of this year's Ohio State squad, and a leading candidate to add national honors to his Big Ten player of the year award.

Turner is a nasty defender and is third on Ohio State's career list with 158 steals.

Say a team finds a way to contain Turner. David Lighty, Jon Diebler, William Buford, they've all gone off for 20-plus points this year. Diebler carried the Buckeyes against UCSB, making seven 3-pointers and finishing with a season-high 23 points. He's averaging 21.5 points for the tourney, 11-for-22 on 3-pointers.

"Ohio State presents you with the biggest mismatch of any team in the tournament," Pearl said.

NCAA Tournament

Thursday's games

West Virginia 69

Washington 56
Butler 63

Syracuse 59
Kentucky vs. Cornell, lateKansas State vs. Xavier, late

Tonight's region semifinals

Midwest

Ohio State vs. Tennessee, 7:07, Ch. 10

Michigan State vs. Northern Iowa, 9:40

South

Baylor vs. Saint Mary's, 7:27

Duke vs. Purdue, 9:57, Ch. 10

More coverage, 8C-9C

Butler upsets No. 1 seed Syracuse in NCAA Tournament 03/26/10 [Last modified: Friday, March 26, 2010 11:44pm]

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