NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Live Blog: UConn Holds On to Join Butler in Final Four

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March 26, 2011

NCAA Tournament Elite Eight Live Blog: UConn Holds On to Join Butler in Final Four 9:18 p.m.: UConn is going back to the Final Four.

Arizona got two quality looks from behind the arch, but neither Derrick Williams nor Horne could get a shot to fall. They both had solid looks, though.

You have to think this would have been a different game had Williams not been in foul trouble in the first.

But, that's the way it goes and now Jim Calhoun and the Huskies will get a chance to keep their run going down in Houston.

9:15 p.m.: With all the star power in this one, of course it was Jamelle Horne making the game's biggest shot thus far. His 3-pointer made it a two-point game, and now Arizona has the ball again with 18.2 to play, down by two points.

Billy Donovan would run an iso for 18 of those.

9:10 p.m.: Jim Calhoun isn't one of the best in the business for nothing. The veteran UConn coach must have said something that resonated with his kids, because UConn is on fire right now.

After going down 53-52, the Huskies stormed back with a 10-2 run that has them back in the driver's seat. It's a team effort, too, as Kemba Walker "only" has six points since the half.

UConn 62, Arizona 57 — 2:31 to play

8:55 p.m.: Just like that, Arizona has the lead back. After another monster dunk by Williams and then a UConn turnover, Jesse Perry rocked the rim with a one-handed slam. The Wildcats now lead by one, and Jim Calhoun wants to talk it over. Good idea.

Obviously, having Williams in the lineup changes everything for Arizona, and that is showing right now. He changes the complexion of things, especially when he's dunking over two Huskies.

Momentum on Arizona's side big time right now.

Arizona 52, UConn 52 — 7:16 to play in second half

8:51 p.m.: Derrick Williams just slammed home an emphatic dunk, and for the first time since the first half, the Honda Center is rocking.

Arizona has the psuedo home-court advantage in Anaheim, and the Wildcat fans are making their presence felt as Williams' dunk gets the Cats to within five.

UConn 52, Arizona 47 — 9:00 to play in second half

8:36 p.m.: There's good news and then there's better news for Arizona.

The good news: They're within two points.

The better news: Derrick Williams hasn't picked up a foul in this half.

8:08 p.m.: Arizona is a good team, but without Derrick Williams on the floor, they are nothing resembling a Final Four team. That was the case in the first half, and as a result, the Wildcats are 20 minutes from being sent back to the desert.

Williams picked up three fouls in the first and had to sit. UConn, to its credit, made 'Zona pay, going on a couple of runs, most notably a 12-2 spurt after Williams picked up No. 2.

You hate to see a team lose its best player to foul trouble, but Williams has no one to blame but himself. Just 30 seconds after returning to the game with two fouls, the forward picked up a dumb, cheap foul, reaching in as a UConn big came across the lane. At that point, just let him go; it's not worth it.

UConn 32, Arizona 25 — halftime

7:48 p.m.: Derrick Williams returns to the floor despite having two fouls. UConn went on a 12-2 run in his absence.

Literally seconds later, Williams picks up a bad reaching in foul. For his penance, he's forced to return to the Arizona bench.

7:42 p.m.: Just like that, however, UConn storms back to take the lead.

They're on a 9-0 run that's gotten them the 18-17 lead. Kemba Walker has seven points, but so does Shabazz Napier. In addition to arguably having the tournament's best name, Napier has come off the bench to give the Huskies a big spark.

His fast-break layup just got UConn its first lead of the contest.

UConn 19, Arizona 18 — 7:43 to play in first half

7:23 p.m.:  Before things get too serious in Anaheim, let's break down this weekend's host cities.

If we had a power rankings for such a thing, here's how mine would look:

1. New Orleans
2. San Antonio
3. Anaheim
4. Newark

Yeah, Anaheim and Newark. I know. The Big Easy must be an awesome location for this event, as would Las Vegas, for reasons that don't need to be explained. Darkhorse city would have to be Indianapolis.

In Anaheim, UConn looks out of sorts early on, with only one field goal. Arizona, they have five. So, you add that all up, throw in some free throws, and boom — Arizona leads 11-5 at the first media timeout.

7:15 p.m.:  And we're off in California with UConn and Arizona tipping off giving no rest for the weary of college hoops fans.

Anyway, Kemba watch is on as Kemba Walker will try to will a red-hot UConn team back to the Final Four for the 49th time since Jim Calhoun took over — hyperbole of course … or is it?

For Arizona, Derrick Williams is the guy to watch after going off for a career-high 32 against Duke. If he leaves after this season, David Stern will be calling his name very early on draft night this summer.

Good news for both teams: Billy Donovan will not be drawing up plays in the game's final minutes.

7:00 p.m.:  That does it in New Orleans, as Butler is heading back to the Final Four.

Florida had a couple of questionable offensive calls in the final few minutes and even worse execution.

Shelvin Mack was able to push the Butler lead to three with a pair of free throws, and Florida couldn't do anything at the other end before the horn so Butler is on its way back to the Final Four.

UConn and Arizona tip off in just moments in the West regional final.

6:53 p.m.:  It's getting real good down in the Big Easy.

With about a minute and a half to play, Erving Walker hit a 3-pointer togive Florida the lead. Fifteen seconds later, Shelvin Mack one-upped Walker with a deeper 3 to grab the lead back.

With under a minute to play, Butler leads by just a point.

6:53 p.m.:  It's getting real good down in the Big Easy.

With about a minute and a half to play, Erving Walker hit a 3-pointer togive Florida the lead. Fifteen seconds later, Shelvin Mack one-upped Walker with a deeper 3 to grab the lead back.

With under a minute to play, Butler leads by just a point.

6:45 p.m.:  Khyle Marshall keeps up some impressive play off the bench for the Bulldogs. He just pulled down an offensive board, put it back and scored while getting fouled. He hit the free throw as well, giving Butler a 65-62 lead with 3:20 to play.

Gus Johnson said something inaudible after the play. Not sure what he said, but it was followed by at least five exclamation points.

6:38 p.m.:  Off the inbound play, Matt Howard gets an open look, and he gets fouled on his way to missing the shot in the lane. 

He hits one of two, giving Florida a chance to win. The Gators in explicably settle for 20 dribbles from Erving Walker before launching a fadeaway 3-pointer. That shot, naturally, missed.

Overtime in New Orleans.

6:24 p.m.:  The Bulldogs won't go away, not quietly at least.

Freshman guard Chrishawn Hopkins, who played six minutes per contest this season, hit a big 3-pointer to get Butler back into it. They've got it back to four.

Gus Johnson, on the other hand, is heating up big time. He just voiced his displeasure on a foul call that went against Butler. Gotta love Gus. Rise and fire.

Florida 57, Butler 53 — 5:12 to play in second half

6:08 p.m.: We interrupt this live blog to give you an update on the economics of college sports. CNBC's sports reporter Darren Rovell just tweeted that Butler head coach Brad Stevens' salary makes up 10 percent of the school's athletic department budget. He got an extension after last year's run to the national championship, and his contract as it stands now runs through 2021-22.

Stevens would gladly trade in some of that cash for a few points right now. Florida had grown its lead to 11, but the Bulldogs are hoping to gain some momentum after a Matt Howard layup, with a foul.

Florida 51, Butler 42 — 9:00 to play in second half

5:58 p.m.: Butler started the second half playing very well, even grabbing the lead in first few minutes, but they've cooled down from the floor some, and Florida is taking advantage of it.

The Gators continue to generate the majority of their offense in the post, evidenced by a couple of emphatic dunks during their 12-5 run right now.

Florida 47, Butler 40 — 11:40 to play in second half

5:25 p.m.: Not surprisingly, the cardiac kids, the Butler Bulldogs, have shrunk the lead down to just one at halftime.

They withstood a little bit of a run halfway through the first half Florida, but closed the half on a 17-8 run to close the lead.

Vernon Macklin ate up the Butler bigs down low in the first en route to a game-high 15 points. On the other side, Shelvin Mack has 14 points despite sitting for a few minutes with an ankle injury.

So if you liked Mack going for more than 16 points against Florida in the regional final, you've got to be feeling pretty good right now, no?

5:16 p.m.: Shelvin Mack has returned to the floor for Butler, an obviously good sign for the Bulldogs.

Although Florida is generally accepted as the deeper team, it's the Butler bench doing the damage right now, to the tune of 10 points. Six of those have come on 3-pointers from Zach Hann, who if he starts to heat up, could really help jumpstart a run for Butler.

Florida 31, Butler 27 — 1:55 to play in first half

5:09 p.m.: Butler is closing on Florida right now and they're doing so without the services of Shelvin Mack.

He's currently at the end of the Bulldog bench getting his ankle worked on. They're hoping that he can just get it retaped and back onto the floor.

It doesn't take Dick Vitale to know that if Mack for some reason doesn't return Butler is in trouble.

Florida 27, Butler 25 — 3:22 to play in first half

5:00 p.m.: On one end, it was a guard who took over early, and on the other end now, it's a big man.

Florida center Vernon Macklin has responded to Shelvin Mack's start in a big way, as he's now the game's leading scorer with 11 points, helping the Gators push the lead to eight a little more than halfway through the first half.

Butler better watch out. While they're a great team obviously, you wonder if they have enough firepower to make a huge run if they fall too far behind, especially against a very talented SEC team in the Florida. The Gators also have the depth, too, so that could be something to watch as well for the Bulldogs.

 Florida 23, Butler 15 — 7:33 to play in first half

4:49 p.m.: Shelvin Mack has come back to earth — he missed a shot.

Florida's got a slim lead, but it's obviously still early, and there's somewhat of a "feeling out" process going on right now between two teams obviously haven't seen each other before.

Anyhoo, ESPN's Jay Bilas just tweeted an interesting tidbit from Butler practice this week. He says that the Bulldogs carry themselves with what they call a "we-first attitude." That's pretty cool.

Florida 14, Butler 11 — 11:38 to play in first half.

4:38 p.m.: Shelvin Mack has been here before, and he's showing it very early.

He's hit his first three shots, including a 3-pointer to score the first eight Butler points.

Unfortunately, for Butler at least, that's all they've got. It's tied 8-8 going to the first TV timeout.

4:26 p.m.: Florida and Butler will tip at some point soon — I think.

Good news for hoops fans following along on CBS, though, as Gus Davis has the play-by-play for this one. That means we're due for a buzzer-beater or something of the like. It's the Law of Gus.

10:35 a.m.: The Butler Bulldogs are one win away from returning to the Final Four.

The Florida Gators, hot off a win over BYU, are standing in their way, and looking to return to the Final Four for the first time since winning it all in 2007.

Florida's trip to the Elite Eight has been as follows:

Mar 17 vs. UCSB — Win, 79-51
Mar 19 vs. UCLA — Win, 73-65
Mar 24 vs. BYU — Win, 83-74 OT

Butler's trip has been as follows:

Mar 17 vs. ODU — Win, 60-58
Mar 19 vs. PITT — Win, 71-70
Mar 24 vs. WIS — Win, 61-54

NESN's college basketball coverage is presented by Bodog.net

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