BY BRENT GLASGOW
ORLANDO – Butler wants to be a player in March Madness, and the Bulldogs got a good look at what it’ll take in Friday’s second round of the Old Spice Classic.
Butler trailed fifth-ranked Oklahoma State by 14 points at halftime, but clawed back in the second half and had multiple chances of upsetting the Cowboys. Two missed free throws and a last-second block of an attempted game-winner left the Bulldogs shaking their heads in disappointment after a 69-67 defeat.
“I thought our team coming out of halftime fought their tails off,” Butler coach Brandon Miller said. “I couldn’t be more proud of our team the way we competed. We fought to the very end, gave ourselves a chance to win and down the stretch we didn’t make enough plays.”
With 8.4 seconds left and trailing by one, Khyle Marshall missed two foul shots that would’ve put Butler ahead. Then, down two, Elijah Brown had an off-balance 3-point try swatted out of bounds as time expired.
“It hurts, especially when you have opportunities and it just doesn’t happen for you,” Miller said.
The teams left the gym knowing it was the type of emotional, hard-fought contest mostly seen in March.
“This felt like an NCAA Tournament game,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said.
Butler (5-1) will face LSU (4-2) at 2 p.m. Sunday in the tournament’s third-place game. The Tigers lost to No. 21 Memphis in Friday’s other winner’s bracket semifinal, 76-59.
Butler got off to a solid start Friday, by shooting 7 of 11 from the field in taking a 16-15 lead nine minutes in.
Oklahoma State (7-0) owned the rest of the first half. The Cowboys outscored Butler 29-14 over the final 11 minutes, shot 58 percent from the floor for the half and held a 19-13 rebounding advantage.
Needing a jumpstart, Butler got it in the opening moments of the second half with back-to-back 3-pointers by Erik Fromm and Alex Barlow. Brown had eight points during a subsequent spurt that cut the Bulldogs’ deficit to 54-51 with 12 minutes remaining.
“We didn’t make too many adjustments,” Barlow said. “We felt good on the offensive glass, just had to box out and limit them to one shot. Other than that, we knew we had to play 20 hard minutes of basketball and we’d be right there.”
Butler trailed 68-59 with three minutes left, but six straight points by Kellen Dunham and a basket by Marshall made it a one-point game. The Bulldogs failed to cash in from there.
After scoring a combined 62 points on Thursday, Dunham and Marshall had just 17 Friday on 7 of 23 shooting. Brown led Butler with 15 points, followed by Barlow and Kameron Woods with 12 apiece.
National player of the year candidate Marcus Smart had 17 points and eight rebounds for Oklahoma State.
“We tried to make it really hard for him to score and make him earn every point he got, but you’re just not gonna hold a guy like that down,” Miller said.Nov 28, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart (33) talks to head coach Travis Ford after he was called for a technical foul in the second half of their Old Spice Classic game against the Purdue Boilermakers at HP Field House. The Oklahoma State Cowboys beat the Purdue Boilermakers 97-87. Mandatory Credit: Phil Sears-USA TODAY Sports