NEW YORK (AP) -- Butler had already beaten a team from the Big
East, the Big Ten and Southeastern Conference in the NIT Season
The Bulldogs capped the tournament Friday night with a 79-71
victory over No. 23 Gonzaga, a team that might not have the conference
pedigree of their other victims but still has an impressive recent
"Every game that we played we have had tremendous respect for
our opponent, and when you do that, you prepare well and you stay
very in tune," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "We'd like to
always do that, but when you're playing Notre Dame, Indiana,
Tennessee and Gonzaga, it's pretty imperative that you concentrate
and try to execute and do all the little things."
Butler excelled at doing the little things that allow
"mid-major" programs to compete, and beat, teams from the power
The Bulldogs went 23-for-26 from the free throw line, including
16-for-18 over the final 3½ minutes, committed seven turnovers and
allowed more than 70 points for the first time in the four-game
tournament, 42 in the second half.
"Butler outplayed us in any facet and every facet that I can
possibly think of involved in basketball," Gonzaga coach Mark Few
A.J. Graves scored 26 points for Butler (6-0), which won the
battle of the Bulldogs despite not making a field goal over the
final eight minutes as Gonzaga (5-1) cut an 18-point deficit to as
few as six.
"We didn't get too excited when we beat IU. We enjoyed the
night and moved on and we'll do the same tonight," Graves said.
"We've got games ahead of us. We've for the whole season ahead of
us and we've just got to keep moving forward."
Derek Raivio had 20 points to lead Gonzaga, which advanced to
the title game at Madison Square Garden by beating No. 2 North
Carolina 82-74 in the semifinals.
While it was free throws that sealed the win, it was 3-pointers
that got Butler off to a 43-29 halftime lead.
Butler, which beat No. 22 Tennessee 56-44 in the semifinals, had
nine 3-pointers in the first half, their average for a game so far
this season. Julian Betko made all three of his long-range attempts
in the first half as Butler went 9-for-22.
Graves, who was 2-for-8 from beyond the arc in the first half,
made two of his five 3-point attempts in the second half, the
second one giving Butler a 60-45 lead with 9:39 to play.
Betko's desperation jumper from just outside the foul line as
the shot clock expired with 8:00 left was Butler's last field goal
of the game and it gave the Bulldogs a 62-45 lead. Brian Ligon's
free throw 30 seconds later gave Butler its biggest lead.
Josh Heytvelt, Gonzaga's big man who was limited to six points
in eight minutes in the first half because of foul trouble, started
an 8-0 run for Gonzaga with a three-point play. Raivio capped it
with a 3 and two free throws, but Graves started Butler's free
throw parade with 3:32 left. He went 6-for-6 from the line the rest
of the way and Mike Green made all eight of his free throws down
Gonzaga was able to get within seven points five times and six
once, 77-71 with 14 seconds left, but Butler just kept making free
"We'll score, we don't care how we score," Lickliter said.
"If we score at the line, that's fine with us. We don't care. I
thought we shot a few 3s down the stretch that were a little b it
frightening, but that's who we are I guess. They were open. I hate
to tell guys who can make them not to shoot them."
Green finished with 16 points for Butler, a member of the
Horizon League, and Betko had 13.
Heytvelt finished with 16 points and eight rebounds for Gonzaga,
which is in the West Coast Conference.
"Two fouls took me out of the game at the beginning but it
didn't change my mind-set at all," Heytvelt said. "Butler did a
great job on defense and offense, how they executed. I don't think
those two fouls really affected the game. Butler just came out
firing and they beat us."