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Green scores 19 as Butler advances to play Cleveland State in title game

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Mike Green would just as soon pass the ball to an open teammate as score. That's why he's the Horizon League's most valuable player, and that's why Butler is in the conference championship game.

Green had 19 points and seven assists and took control during a late first-half run that carried the Bulldogs (No. 12 ESPN/USA Today, No. 14 AP) to a 66-50 victory over Illinois-Chicago in the conference tournament semifinals Saturday night.

"I just take what the defense gives me," Green said. "They gave me a pull-up one time, they gave me a 3 in transition, they came and stopped me and I got rid of the ball.

"With this many weapons on the floor at one time and with everything clicking like that offensively, we're going to be hard to stop," he said.

Top-seeded Butler (28-3) will play second-seeded Cleveland State (21-11) Tuesday night for the automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Bulldogs lost to Wright State in last year's conference title game, then to eventual champion Florida in the NCAA regional finals.

Pete Campbell added 15 points and A.J. Graves 14 for Butler.

"Mike had a great game, no question about that," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "But he's played like that all season.

"He played with great poise, and he found the right guy and just made a lot of great plays with the basketball."

Robert Kreps led the Flames (18-15) with 15 points, 11 in the closing minutes after the outcome was assured, and Jermaine Dailey added 12 points and 10 rebounds, nine of them offensive boards.

"Mentally, we got a little tired and weren't able to do some of the things we had been doing," Chicago coach Jimmy Collins said.

"For 17 minutes, we played some pretty good basketball. They just did some things that took the air out of our sails."

Chicago, the No. 4 seed, led most of the first half by dominating the boards, taking its biggest lead at 16-11 after three free throws by Scott VanderMeer.

That's when Green and the Bulldogs took over.

A 6-foot guard, Green had five points in a 12-3 run, including a go-ahead basket with 4:40 remaining. Campbell then hit his second of five 3-pointers to give the Bulldogs their biggest lead up to that point in the game.

But it didn't end there.

Driving to the basket on almost every Butler possession the rest of the half, Green scored the next six points for the Bulldogs.

"Green looks to set up everybody else," Collins said. "And when he doesn't get that accomplished, he scores. He's really a tough college guard. He's got all the tools to make some money at the next level."

After Dailey hit one of two free throws for the Flames, Green again drove through the lane but rifled the ball out to the left corner for an open 3-pointer by Julian Betko. Then in the closing seconds of the half, Green held the ball near midcourt for a final shot, but this time, as he drove in and drew the Chicago defense to him, he found Drew Streicher alone under the basket for an easy layup and a 34-24 lead at halftime.

Chicago, which hit only two shots from the field the final 11 minutes of the first half and first three minutes of the second period, never recovered.

Even after Green left the game with his third foul, Butler continued to widen the lead. Consecutive 3-pointers by Graves and Campbell pushed the lead to 53-29 with 12 minutes to go, and the Flames got no closer than 13 the rest of the game.