This Butler did it: Bulldogs reach second round of 16 in four years

Associated Press • Mar 18, 2007 at 8:09 AM

BUFFALO, N.Y. - A.J. Graves can't grow any wider or taller, and the junior point guard doesn't believe Butler will ever shed its mid-major label.

But boy, can the Bulldogs pull off a surprise or two once they get into the NCAA tournament.

Goodbye, Maryland. Welcome back, Butler: the tiny Indiana school that clinched its second trip to the round of 16 in four years with a 62-59 win over the Terrapins on Saturday.

Graves led the way, scoring 19 points, including a crucial 3-point basket with 2:09 left.

"Man, it was amazing," said Graves, who's generously listed at 6-foot-1. "To be put in a position like that to make a big play and to have teammates backing up and supporting you, it was just an amazing feeling."

Butler (29-6), the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Regional, advances to St. Louis next week and improved its record to 7-6 in seven tournament appearances - six since 1997.

"I think we've proven we can play with anybody," added forward Brandon Crone, who scored 13 points. "This means everything."

Maryland (25-9), making its first tournament appearance since 2004, has not advanced past the second round since 2003. The Terps were undone by an aggressive and smaller team, which kept their offense out of rhythm.

Graves in particular outplayed Maryland star swingman, D.J. Strawberry, who failed to score a point in the first half and finished with eight. Mike Jones led Maryland with 21 points, but it had only one other player - James Gist with 13 - in double digits. That's unusual for a team that entered the game averaging nearly 80 points.

Butler never trailed after going up 39-36 on Drew Streicher's 3-point basket five minutes into the second half and hung on in a game Maryland rallied back to tie four times.

Maryland coach Gary Williams made the decision to not foul Butler on its final possession, believing his team would get the rebound. The decision backfired when Julian Betko's shot hit off the front of the rim and Butler's Mike Green ran down the rebound and was fouled with 3.6 seconds left.

"We had to work hard to make the tournament this year," Williams said. "This is really tough today."

Butler, coming off a 57-46 win over Old Dominion in the first round on Thursday, won consecutive games for the first time in more than a month.

The Bulldogs improved to 21-0 when they hold an opponent to 59 points or less. They did it with a stifling defense, forcing 17 Terrapins turnovers.

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