Skeen made a 3 and Hahn answered back with one that didn't even rustle the strings of the net. Skeen converted a three-point play, and Hahn made another 3. Rozzell showed he can score from inside, too, with a layup, only to have Hahn — who else? — make a reverse that put Butler in front 44-43 with 12:20 left.
Butler clamped down on the Rams, not allowing another field goal for more than three minutes. Meanwhile Mack, who earned most outstanding player honors in the Southeast Regional, showed off his dazzling skills yet again. He made back-to-back 3-pointers and then a layup to give Butler a 52-45 lead with 9:41 to play, and the game was all but over.
"We're a defensive team, so we don't need to score 10 points in the last two minutes to win the game," said Andrew Smith, who had seven rebounds. "We'd much prefer to just get a few stops. That's kind of what we're made to do."
Butler's run last year inspired mid-majors everywhere, including VCU. The Rams had won a grand total of five games in the NCAA tournament before this year, never more than one at a time.
But led by Smart, their cool and charismatic 33-year-old coach who is sure to be seen on the big stage again, they showed the little guys can play with anybody, anytime.
After VCU missed its first five shots of the game, Burgess drilled a 3 to spark an 11-0 run that gave the Rams an 11-5 lead with 15:38 left in the first half. Another 3 by Burgess about 2½ minutes later put the Rams up 15-7, and Stevens had had enough.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"Of course it's not a once in a lifetime run. We're going to try to do this every year," said Smart, in his second year at VCU. "It's not easy, there's no question about it. ... If we're capable of coming together as a group and playing aggressive, confident, loose basketball, and we have the right guys out there, it's certainly possible."
Just look at Butler.
Butler was an adorable story last year, a 4,200-student school playing for the national title just six miles from campus. That the Bulldogs play in the same arena where "Hoosiers" was filmed only added to the sweetness.
Although Butler has shown it has more substance than a movie sequel, consider this: that 1954 Milan team that was the basis for Hoosiers? It didn't win the title on its first trip to the Indiana state finals.
It did it the second time around.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
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