Butler beats Michigan State, 52-50, to advance to championship game

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Butler did do it, the Bulldogs are going to the NCAA title game on Monday night, but we’re still not sure how.

The hometown heroes made only 15 of 49 shots Saturday, and only six of 25 in the second half, but it was enough to hold off Michigan State, 52-50, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

You knew it was true when Gordon Hayward grabbed a missed free throw with two seconds left, watched the clock run out and ignited the celebration.

Butler, which won its 25th consecutive game, will go for No. 26 in Monday night’s title game.

Michigan State, which lost the title game last year to North Carolina, is going home.

Butler Coach Brad Stevens may be only 33, but he has coached his team one step closer to Hoops Heaven.

He made a decision in the waning seconds many veteran coaches don’t make.

Up by three points with 5.8 seconds left, Stevens ordered his team to foul intentionally so that Michigan State could not tie the game with a three-pointer.

This is the strategy Memphis Coach John Calipari did not employ two years ago against Kansas and it cost him the national title.

Butler’s plan worked perfectly.

With two seconds left, Shawn Vanzant wrapped his arms around Korie Lucious.

No way Lucious was going to send this game to overtime. He was the guy, remember, who beat Maryland in this year’s tournament with a last-second three pointer.

Lucious made the first free throw to cut Butler’s lead to two, but missed the second.

Hayward scooped up the rebound and Butler was headed to the final on Monday night.

The game went as expected. It was ugly and gritty.

Were the refs rooting for Butler? Michigan State fans seemed to think so.

Midway through second half the Spartans had one starter, Raymar Morgan, with four fouls and three other players with three.

After Chris Allen was called for his third foul, and they showed the replay on the big screen, the Michigan State partisans screamed their displeasure.

Morgan played only eight minutes of the first half after picking up his third foul with 10:11 left in the first half.

In the end, though, Michigan State had only four more fouls than Butler, 21-17.

Michigan State had won four tournament games by a total of 13 points, but couldn’t pull this one out.

Butler’s time had come -- in its own city.