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Pitt returns gift in Butler upset win

WASHINGTON — The players in the Butler locker room celebrated their latest stunning upset in the NCAA Tournament by screaming, exchanging high fives and hugging each other.

Across the arena, Pittsburgh forward Nasir Robinson sat in front of his locker with his shoulders slumped. His voice was barely audible.

"I take the blame, man. I take the blame for the loss," Robinson said of the pivotal play in Butler's 71-70 victory over the top-seeded Panthers on Saturday night.

Matt Howard made one free throw with 0.8 seconds left to cap a wild final sequence that enabled No. 8 seed Butler (25-9) to advance to the Sweet 16 and deal Pittsburgh its latest painful exit from the NCAAs.

Each team had a chance to win it from the free-throw line in the last two seconds. After Butler's Shelvin Mack inexplicably fouled Gilbert Brown near midcourt with 1.4 seconds left, Brown made the first try to tie it.

He missed the second, and Howard was fouled by Robinson while grabbing the rebound — a foul even more unnecessary than the one that preceded it.

"I've been playing basketball my whole life and I know I shouldn't have done that. It was a stupid play," Robinson said. "It wasn't the ref's fault. It was my fault."

Robinson tried to answer another question but got choked up and just shook his head before putting a towel over it.

When Howard grabbed the rebound of Brown's miss, it appeared the game would be going to overtime because the Bulldogs were out of timeouts. Then Robinson stuck his arm into the fray.

"I was really surprised," Howard said. "I felt his arm come across mine, so I just threw the ball to the rim."

Howard made the first shot then intentionally banged the second off the rim.

Soon after that, Butler was rejoicing at midcourt.

John Adams, coordinator of officiating for the NCAA Tournament, told CBS the officials had no choice in calling the fouls in the final seconds.

"They were both fouls," he said. "We have one point of emphasis, it's enforce the rules as written. ... These are fouls and if you don't call them, you penalize the other team."

Mack scored 30 for the Bulldogs (25-9), who used a string of upsets to reach the championship game last year. Butler has won 11 straight overall and is 7-1 in its past eight NCAA Tournament games.

The 30 points were two short of Mack's career high and a Butler tournament record. He went 10-of-16 and made 7 of 12 3-pointers.

Unlike Robinson, he got to laugh about a foul that never should have happened.

"It was the dumbest mistake of my life," he acknowledged.

The Bulldogs face Wisconsin in the Southeast Region semifinals in New Orleans. No matter what happens, it will almost certainly be tame compared to what Butler went through in Washington.

"You win two games by three points, it's going to be pretty crazy," Howard said.

Pittsburgh (28-6) was seeking to reach the Sweet 16 for the sixth time in 10 years. Instead, the Panthers became just another victim of Butler magic.

Pitt has made the NCAA Tournament in 10 straight seasons but never gotten past the Elite Eight. This team loses four seniors, including Brown, center Gary McGhee and guard Brad Wanamaker.

"Anytime we've lost in the tournament, there's been no good losses," coach Jamie Dixon said. "We've just got to keep working harder and keep having great years and keep putting ourselves in a position that we're in."

BYU 89, GONZAGA 67: Jimmer Fredette had 34 points to lift the third-seeded Cougars (32-4) in Denver, sending them to New Orleans for the region semifinals against Florida. It will be BYU's deepest trip in the NCAA Tournament since 1981, when Danny Ainge went coast to coast against Notre Dame for a last-second winner.

Fredette made 7 of 12 3-pointers, and after having trouble getting shots over Gonzaga's tough defense in the first half, he found his rhythm in the second.

He opened the half by pulling up from 5 feet beyond the upper-right part of the 3-point arc and swishing the shot. That triggered an 11-2 run that put BYU up 56-40.

The Bulldogs (25-10) pulled within eight, but with 8:58 left, Fredette made a shot from the same spot as part of a 12-0 run that expanded the lead to 20.

WIS. 70, KANSAS ST. 65: Jordan Taylor hit two big free throws and blocked Jacob Pullen's 3-point attempt in the closing seconds to overcome a rough shooting night, lifting the fourth-seeded Badgers (25-8) past the fifth-seeded Wildcats (23-11) in Tucson, Ariz.

Taylor shot 2-of-16 but came up with the biggest play of the game, swatting Pullen's tying attempt in the final seconds with Wisconsin up three.

Josh Gasser then hit two free throws to seal it.

Wild finish

With Pittsburgh leading 69-68, the last 10 seconds turned frantic:

9.2 Pitt shot clock violation

7.1 Butler, then Pitt timeouts

2.2 Andrew Smith layup, Butler leads 70-69

1.4 Foul on Butler's Shelvin Mack

1.4 Gilbert Brown free throw, tied

1.4 Brown misses, Matt Howard defensive rebound

0.8 Foul on Pitt's Nasir Robinson

0.8 Howard makes free throw, Butler leads 71-70

0.8 Howard misses free throw intentionally

0.2 Brad Wanamaker defensive rebound, no shot. Butler wins, 71-70

Pitt returns gift in Butler upset win 03/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:30am]

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