Butch's Curtain Call

Say about him whatever you want. Down big in the second half, Wisconsin senior Brian Butch never quit on his team, which describes what kind of player he was in a Badger uniform.

DETROIT - It was a final minute that senior Brian Butch never wanted to come to fruition.

With Wisconsin trailing by 17 points and the game clock at Ford Field reading a miniscule 22 seconds left in the Badgers' season, Butch's Wisconsin basketball career came to close.

Grabbing the towel and receiving a pat on the back by his replacement, freshman Keaton Nankivil, Butch, with his mouth guard hanging dejectedly out in front, took a slow, disheartened saunter to the far end of the court to spend the remaining seconds on the Wisconsin bench.

But before he descended from the elevated court, Butch glanced over at the Wisconsin contingent giving him and his fellow seniors – Tanner Bronson, Michael Flowers and Greg Stiemsma – a standing ovation and gave a little wave of his towel in recognition.

"The biggest thing was to get a look back at the fans and tell them thanks," Butch said. "Not in a hurtful way but to acknowledge them because without those people and the support of those people, those are the people that get you through everything."

That moment is the persona of Brian Butch to a tee – caring, grateful and never willing to throw in the towel.

Finishing his senior season averaging 12.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game (both of which were new career highs), Butch never stopped believing that Wisconsin, down by as many as 21 points in the second half, could find someway to rebound and advance to the Elite Eight.

But with Davidson sophomore guard Stephen Curry having one of the best tournament runs in NCAA history, nothing could save the Badgers. Averaging 35 points per game in the first two rounds, Curry scored a game-high 33 points, knocked down six three-pointers and outscored the Badgers by two points in the second half (22 to 20).

Combine that with Wisconsin (31-5) having its worst shooting half of the year (5-for-21 for 23.8 percent) in the second half, giving up a season-high 12 three-pointers were out and were out scored 23-5 after cutting the lead to three points with 14:59 left in the game, there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

"It was like boom, boom, boom," said Butch of the beginning of the run that broke the game open. "I still thought we were in the game. It wasn't one of those things where I felt we weren't in the game. You don't believe that until about the last minute. The way this team has played all year long, we would find ways to get a win. We just did not have an answer."

What made the night more difficult was that Davidson took Wisconsin's own interior-minded game and shoved it right back in the Badgers' faces. The Wildcats (29-6) out scored UW in the paint (22-18), use its defense to create turnovers (12) and scored 18 points off those turnovers.

"It got to be about a 12-point game and we started forcing things, taking too many threes and once we started taking too many threes, they were getting long rebounds and running out," Butch said. "It was a big accumulation of how you play and we didn't handle that (run) well."

Although the Davidson lead continued to swell, Butch never did go down without a fight. Constantly crashing the boards and being aggressive to the basketball, Butch finished the night with 11 points, the 24th time this season he's scored double-digits.

All the proud moments Butch had been apart of this season – being hoisted onto his teammates' shoulders after winning a share of the conference title, being the first to hoist the Big Ten tournament championship trophy and winning a school-record 31 games – seemed like a distant memory shortly after the conclusion of his career.

But sitting in the corner with his white No.32 Wisconsin basketball jersey still on his chest and blood dripping down his right leg, senior Brian Butch let his final impression speak louder than his soft words could express.

"You do realize that you did some pretty good things that not a lot of people thought you could do," Butch said. "We're all hurting right now but we had a chance to thank everyone for all the great memories we have had. It's been special and nobody can take that away."

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