HOUSTON — Maybe this time, that last shot will go in. Maybe this time, Butler won't need it.
The Bulldogs are back in the final — after beating Virginia Commonwealth 70-62 on Saturday — not as lovable underdogs but intent on making up for last year's heartbreak of watching a last-second halfcourt shot carom off the rim in a 61-59 loss to Duke.
"We've just got to be one shot better than last year," said Brad Stevens, coach of the No. 8 seed.
As the Bulldogs walked down the hallway to the locker room, one shouted, "We're not done yet! Unfinished business, baby!"
"Last year, we didn't get it done," said Shelvin Mack, who made 5 of 6 3-pointers and scored a team-high 24. "So that's in the back of my mind."
VCU (28-12) won five games to get to Saturday, including a first-round game. But Butler's defense was too much for the third No. 11 seed to reach the Final Four.
"It was a phenomenal run," coach Shaka Smart said. "It's a historic run. These guys are never going to be forgotten. Make no mistake about it, this one stings."
Bradford Burgess made three 3-pointers in the first seven minutes for VCU but one the rest of the night. Brandon Rozzell, who made six in the second round against Georgetown, was 0-for-3. Overall, VCU made 8 of 22.
"Some of our shots didn't fall; open shots, shots we'd been making," said Joey Rodriguez, who made 1 of 5 3-pointers. "Almost felt like it wasn't supposed to happen or something."
Down 34-28 at halftime, the Rams got a 3-pointer by Jamie Skeen (team-high 27 points) to go up 38-36. Then Butler's Zach Hahn scored all eight of his points in a 90-second span. First came a 3-pointer.
Skeen responded with a three-point play, but Hahn made another 3. Rozzell made a driving layup, but Hahn made a reverse layup that put Butler (28-9) up 44-43 with 12:22 left.
VCU did not make a field goal for 3:31. Meanwhile, Mack made consecutive 3-pointers and a layup to give Butler a 52-45 lead with 9:41 left.
The game was all but over.
"He was a killer," Smart said of Mack. "He stepped up and made some huge, huge shots."
Mack's performance helped make up for a lackluster one by Matt Howard, the Bulldogs' leading scorer who made 3 of 10 shots from the field while scoring 17. (He did draw 10 fouls and made 11 free throws, three more than VCU made as a team.)
Now a year older and wiser, Butler won't be a wide-eyed kid in the title game.
"It's a focused locker room, and we realize there's still a game to play," Howard said.
"And hopefully another game to be won."