Colin E. Braley / AP
Butler had much to celebrate on Thursday night.
Yes, the Butler did it. And it wasn't because it hit a ton of 3-pointers against Syracuse's 2-3 zone or because of a magnificent game by one player.
Butler's defense brought it. Simple as that.
The 63-59 loss was perhaps Syracuse's worst offensive performance this season. The Orange matched their season-low in points, committed a turnover once every four possessions (actually a little more) and hit bottom in points per possession (0.93). They struggled to shoot, pass and dribble.
Credit a smart defense filled with players ranging from 6-feet to just 6-8. Butler won't intimidate anyone, but it'll beat them.
"We knew they pride themselves on defense and they played us tough," said Syracuse junior Wesley Johnson.
How tough? Syracuse committed more turnovers in the first 13 minutes (9) than it took shots. Some were foolish passes into the lane, quickly scooped up by a Bulldog. Others were mis-handled passes, usually because of on-ball pressure.
By halftime, the Orange had made 12 field goals, and committed 12 turnovers, nine of them Butler steals.
By comparison, Butler had just two turnovers in the first half, and finished with seven overall, a turnover once every 10 possessions.
"The game was a story of turnovers. They didn't make turnovers," said Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim. "They were really good with the basketball. We just had 18 turnovers and you can't give away that many possessions."
That was crucial, too, because Butler's offense was merely good, not great.
The Bulldogs hit just 40.4 percent of their field-goal attempts and were just 6 of 24 from beyond the arc (that's an eFG% of 46). Guard Shelvin Mack, who hit 7 of 9 from deep vs. UTEP, was just 1 of 10. But they hit enough free throws and made enough plays late in the game to offset a would-be Syracuse comeback, closing on a 12-5 run.
Now the Bulldogs are now one victory from reaching their first Final Four, about a 10-minute drive from their campus in Indianapolis, and would be the first school from a non-BCS conference to reach the final weekend since George Mason in 2006.
"We said this word over and over in Indianapolis, and that word is 'resolve.' These guys have resolve," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "It's hard to measure, but they've got it."
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