MSU Shocked by Butler in NCAA First Round, 47-46

Mississippi State lost to Butler 47-46 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, a loss that MSU junior guard Timmy Bowers described as the most disappointing loss in his entire career, high school and college.<P> Butler, obviously a team that doesn't easily get intimidated by any opponent as evidenced by 51 wins in 62 games the past two seasons, surprised Mississippi State early with a 12-3 run to start the game.

After a timeout, the Bulldogs went on a 10-1 run that tied the game, but a double technical foul was called on a Butler player and MSU point guard Derrick Zimmerman, his second foul of the half. After MSU took Zimmerman out of the game to keep him from picking up his third foul, Butler took advantage of it by outscoring the MSU Bulldogs 15-12 to take a three-point lead, 28-25, into halftime.

Several minutes into the second half the MSU Bulldogs took the lead back and extended it out to four before the Butler Bulldogs came back to tie it up.

The teams kept going back and forth scoring buckets before the winning basket by Brandon Miller, one of four seniors starters for Butler.

Throughout the second half, MSU, seemingly snake-bitten on offense, had their chances but missed open shots from the outside and even put-backs directly beneath the basket.

With the loss, the very somber Bulldogs of Mississippi State, a team that only loses two seniors from their entire team, think about what could have been while the very jubilant Bulldogs of Butler face the 4th seed Louisville Cardinals, a big winner over Austin Peay in the game before the MSU/Butler contest, Sunday at 1:20 p.m.



"With Butler, the key to the game was who could control it. Could there offense control our defense? Could our defense control their offense? You have to give them the edge there because of the score. They were going to run the shot clock down to 30 to 32 seconds. They were going to try and beat you on ball screens, driving and pitching. I think we guarded them as well as you can guard them. We held them to 47 points but because they controlled that ball we weren't able to get any deflections and score in transition. That was the difference in the game."

What are you feeling now, shock, disappointment?
"There is both. I am proud of those young men. Like I've said, if you don't win the national championship you will have this feeling. We got beat by a very good basketball team. Give Butler a lot of credit. You see why they have won 50-something games the last two seasons. Their four seniors stepped up and made huge shots. Every time they needed them, they made plays. We rolled a few around the rim a few times. They fall in it's a different outcome."

It was a very physical game. Were your guys surprised by that early in the game?
"No, they spread you out and don't allow it be dictated underneath that basket. They spread you out and beat you on penetration and beat you on threes. I thought that Cornette did a great job in the second half dribble-penetrating for a couple of baskets. They sat in that zone and was effective in it. We made some shots but would have liked to make more, but we got shots."

Mario Austin got you back in the game in the second half.
"He got us back in it and played big in that stretch. I thought that Frazier made some shots for us. We had the game stretched out to 4 or 5 and they came down and made their three-man, number 22, made a huge trey on a scramble play.

"They got all the scramble plays. If you go back and watch the game, there were four scramble plays, two in the first half and two in the second half. And out of those four scramble plays, they knocked down threes all four times. They had 12 points on balls where they just get it out to open people."

Talk about your last offensive play.
"We weren't going to call timeout. They cut Z (Zimmerman) off but that is the best time to tackle them in transition. Z is pretty good at taking the ball to the hole. I didn't see exactly what happened. I just saw that he got slowed up somehow. But Timmy Bowers had a great look. Yes, we would have rather had a layup but we'll take Timmy Bowers with a wide open three anytime."

Talk about the play by Brandon Miller that won the game for Butler.
"Timmy (Bowers) was on him. That's how we played him all (game). It was hard to get two guys on him. You get two guys on him, then he may kick it down and get a wide opened layup. There were a lot of options that you could have done, but he made a tough shot. Timmy was in his face and he flipped it up over his head."

Do you start thinking about next year now?
"I'm hurting for those two seniors right now. Those two seniors, Iggy and Z, played with a lot of heart. I'm proud of those two guys and hurt for them. I want the guys to hurt for those two seniors. Those other guys can put those shirts back on but those two seniors won't ever put a Bulldog shirt back on. Right now, I feel for those two guys."

You've got a good nucleus coming back for next year.
"We've got good kids coming back, a good nucleus coming back. This team has accomplished a lot. We expect to be right back doing the same thing next year."


Were the missed offensive shots something they were doing or were you guys just missing your shots tonight?
"We got a lot of open looks. They just weren't falling for us."

Did you think your last shot had a chance to go down?
"No, not when I released it. I kind of rushed it. When I got it I didn't really know how much time was on the clock, so I kind of put it up there. I should have taken my time shooting it."

Did you guys maybe think they were going to be pushovers?
"No, we didn't think they were going to be a pushover at all. I just think they came out and made shots, contested or uncontested."

They made a lot of loose ball plays tonight. They kicked it out and fired it in.
"They did a good job tonight. If the ball rolled around the floor, they got it and made the three."

You have a lot of guys coming back and some good recruits coming in. Talk about next year.
"I really don't know. We have some guys coming back and some guys coming in. Hopefully, we can come back and make another run at it."

Talk about the shot made by Miller that won the game. Did you feel you had pretty good position on him?
"I wasn't square to him. I got nudged off at the top and had to try and recover. By the time I got there, he basically put it up. That's kind of like it was for us, they were making everything and we weren't making anything."

Would you say this is the most disappointing loss in your career, high school or college?
"This is the most disappointing in my career. I've never had a loss like this before, to get beat on basically on a last second shot. I guess that is why it is so hard to swallow."


Talk about your teammates and how much they mean to you.
"It has been fun being around the guys, day-in, day-out. I really appreciate them working with me and me being able to work with them."


Talk about the game.
"I think when you have tremendous respect for an opponent your focus is really good. When we saw who we were playing from that moment on I could tell our guys were in tuned to what we thought we needed to do. With that said, they had to believe that they had to preform at a very high level and do it for 40 minutes. We went down four in the second half, but I didn't see any doubt in anybody's eyes. We remained poised and continued to attack. We have tremendous team chemistry."

It looked like you were basically running the same set every time down the court. How many options did you have off that one set?
"Whatever they create. To be honest with you, we try to ask our guys to do things that they are strong at, then play off of one another. They were very good at it. Actually, we put that set in Monday. Tuesday, I thought about throwing it out, then Wednesday I knew I loved it. Tonight, they executed it very well."


Was that the biggest shot of your career?

"Definitely. To hit a shot in the NCAA Tournament like that, nothing compares to it. It's something that you dream about when you are a kid and when you are 23. To be able to hit that shot in this situation is definitely the biggest shot of my career."


Do you think they were taken by surprised by how physical you guys were?
"I don't know if they were surprised. I don't know how a team like that would be caught by surprised by anything. Maybe initially, but a team like that who plays in the SEC knows what it is like to bang. I'm just glad we did it. Maybe, they had been reading the papers or watching ESPN and heard that we were going to pretend to be here, pretend to be basketball players, pretend to be boxed out. I guess we are at least contenders for tonight and we hope to be contenders for a lot longer."

Gene Swindoll is the owner of Gene's Page, the unofficial source for Mississippi State sports on the internet. The URL for Gene's Page is You can contact him by emailing

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