by Maurice Bobb / @ReeseReport
Here we go folks. It’s Final Four time here in Houston. The Reliant Arena is rockin’ and the fans are electric. You haven’t experienced sports until you’ve experienced a Final Four firsthand. The fans are rabid and the noise reaches levels no one can measure. Can’t be here in person? No worries, SLAM is here to keep you informed and on the ball. The battle of the Cinderellas is upon us: VCU vs. Butler. CBS didn’t want them for money reasons, but the underdog lover in us all want to see the little guy get their due.
I may be running on fumes from our party last night (pics and post will be up later), but I’m here and I’m representing. Come along with me and share your thoughts on every play, match-up, egregious foul call, eye-popping play and genius and not-so-genius plays drawn by the coaches. We want to hear it all. So buckle up college hoops fans, here, we, Go!
Both teams are out on the court warming up. From the looks of it, there are an equal amount of VCU and Butler fans on hand to take in the action. No one hates either team, but most of the pundits I’ve spoken with here like my man Steve Smith of NBATV and Sheryl Swoops are riding with VCU and Shaka. Let’s see if he can, in fact, Shaka the World!
Joey Rodriguez – G
Bradford Burgess – G
Ed Nixon – G
Jamie Skeen – F
D.J. Haley – C
Shelvin Mack – G
Shawn Vanzant – G
Chase Stigall – G
Matt Howard – F
Andrew Smith – C
Houston native Yolanda Adams was a great choice for the National Anthem.
Huge cheers for Coach Shaka Smart of VCU. Well deserved. They weren’t given a lot of credit, but they have fought and slayed Goliath to be here. Clap for ’em.
Butler’s fans are going wild for their squad. Back-to-Back Final Four appearances for the little team that could out of Indiana. Coach Stevens is hard not to root for. This is one of those unfortunate situations where one of the heralded “underdogs” have to go home after the last buzzer sounds.
And here we go. VCU wins the tip.
Two point basket for Shelvin Mack. Don’t let him get hot!
Correction that was a three.
Snakes eyes on both attempts so far for VCU.
Another bucket for Mack. As I said, you don’t want him to heat up early.
OK. VCU on the board with a triple by Burgess. Butler up 5-3.
Now Skeen is on the board with a triple. VCU up 6-5.
Wow! That’s three 3-pointers by VCU. They take a 9-5 lead with 16:16 left.
This is a battle between two very smart coaches. Skeen with a up and under for two. VCU up by 6.
Timeout on the court. VCU has a four point advantage thus far.
Skeen shooting two at the line. He misses the first and swishes the second.
How big has Skeen been for VCU since Larry Sanders left?
Another three for Burgess. I think he might be goin’ “Microwave” this game.
Howard at the charity stripe and hits both to pull back within 6.
Howard having a tough time jockeying for position under the basket. Will go to the line again.
Patience gets Butler a basket. Lead cut to two now. Butler has the ball back to tie?
Looks like VCU has gone cold.
We’re all tied up at 15 with 10:15 left in the first half. So far, we have two measured teams keeping the pace steady. Can either team break free for an unanswered double-digit run?
VCU can’t buy a bucket right now. Butler has to take advantage.
Skeen ends the drought for VCU with a nice two in the lane.
Vanzant too far out to draw the charge there. Timeout on the floor.
Good defensive sequence by VCU.
Veal with a nice lefty off the backboard for two. 20-15 VCU.
Mack with another three to inject some life into Butler’s O.
Rodriguez has been quiet thus far. He has not attempted a shot. He has to get it going if VCU has any real chance to win this.
Skeen has 10 points thus far.
Smith ties it up at 22 with 5:41 left in the half.
Skeen has exactly half of VCU’s points right now. He definitely came to PLAY.
Mack is a real man, people. Another trifecta for the Junior out of Lexington, KY.
Timeout on the court. Butler leads 25-24 with 3:52 left to play in the first.
Former President George Bush and his wife are in the house. Just flashed them on the big screen.
Mack has 11 points thus far for Butler. He can make it 13 at the line.
Nice entry pass by Rodriguez to Haley for two easy points. Butler up 27-26.
Nice move by Dixon under the basket for two.
That was Matt Howard’s first field goal. All of his previous points were on free throws.
And Butler takes a 34-28 lead into the locker room. Smoke ’em if you got ’em. Back in a few.
STAT man just made his delivery. For VCU, Skeen is 5-8 from the field for 12 points, with 3 rebounds and two assists. Rodriguez has 3 dimes, but is 0-3 from the field and has two turnovers. For Butler, Mack is 4-5 from the field, including 3-4 from deep, for 13 points. Howard is 1-4 from the field but managed 9 points after going 7-8 from the line. VCU shot 40.7 % from the field in the first half compared to Butler’s 33.3 % and 40 % to 23.1 % from behind the arc. The difference maker is VCU’s woeful 50 % shooting from the free throw line. Butler managed to sink 84.6 % of its shots from the charity stripe. Coach Shaka has to tell his kids to settle down at the line and hit their free throws in the second half if they want to keep their improbable season going all the way to the title game. Butler is doing all the right things except hitting a high percentage of its shots from the field. But with Coach Stevens’ steady hand, look for them to get great looks from the field.
Veal gets VCU on the scoreboard to start things off in the second half. Butler up 34-30.
Skeen has three fouls already. He has to settle down on D to stay in this game.
VCU pulls within one. Shaka’s bees are buzzing. They have gone on a 7-0 run out of the locker room. Take a 35-34 lead with 16:50 left.
Full time out on the court. Butler has to stop VCU’s momentum.
Howard out of the timeout with a strong back to the basket move for two. Butler retakes the lead: 36-35.
Skeen back in. Will he avoid contact or keep bangin’?
Nice three point basket by Skeen to let us know he won’t go down without swingin’.
Hahn answers with a triple of his own. Butler up 39-38.
Skeen at the line for an And-1 and gets it. He has 18 points now.
Hahn with a quick 8 points off the bench. Huge lift for Butler.
Mack with a bomb from deep. Butler up 47-43 with 10:57 left.
Howard has three fouls now. He may have to sit for a spell.
Skeen to the line for two. Nails both. He has 20.
Mack with 5 straight points. He has 21 points now. Butler up 52-45.
Skeen has 22 of VCU’s last 33 points thus far. He is straight beastin’ tonight.
Mack is not playing people. He has 23. Butler up by 7.
Vanzant with a pretty J from the wing. Butler by 6.
Mack can’t miss. He’s a scorching 8-11 from the field.
Team fouls are a problem right now.
Skeen needs to touch every ball now.
Vanzant with the big three ball with 2:58 to lift Butler to a 61-54 lead.
Skeen gets the And-1 on a three pointer.
Doesn’t get the 4-point play.
Horrible possession by Butler.
Huge rebound and putback by Howard.
Butler by 8 with 45 ticks left.
Looks like VCU’s storybook run through the tourney is coming to a close.
VCU takes a timeout with 30.5 seconds left to play. Butler leads it 67-59. Too large of a gap to close.
That’s it folks. Butler moves on the its second title game in as many years to face winner of Kentucky/UConn game. Final score: 70-62.
Here it is, the big show. As much as we all like the underdogs, this is the game that puts food on the table and butts in the seats. Big vs. Big. Powerhouse vs. Powerhouse. Kentucky vs. UConn. Calipari vs. Calhoun. Kemba vs. Brandon. The stage is set for two of the most successful basketball programs in the NCAA to square off for a shot at the big show Monday night and it won’t be a cake walk. The Kentucky contingent of blue in the stadium is so thick you get the feeling of looking into the ocean. They want ‘chip number 8 and they are vocal about it. As for UConn, allegations are swirling around its program and it would mean everything to Calhoun and his players for him to seal this year with the ultimate prize before he most likely will retire. The Huskies go as Kemba goes and thus far, the floor general out of the Bronx has not had a bad game. Is he due or will he shun conventional wisdom and continue his ridiculously sensational play? We’re about to find out who’s our Goliath people. Let’s go!
Darius Miler – G
Brandon Knight – G
DeAndre Liggins – G
Terrance Jones – F
Josh Harrellson – F
Jeremy Lamb – G/F
Kemba Walker – G
Tyler Olander – F
Roscoe Smith – F
Alex Oriakhi – C
UConn out to a 6-2 lead with 17:23 left.
Walker with the nice breakaway layup. UConn by 3.
Jones with 5 quick points. Kentucky by 2.
Kemba to the line for two. Hits one. Kentucky up 10-9 with 13:40 to go in the first.
Full T.O. on the court.
Jones misses both of his freebies.
Kind of sloppy in the early going for both squads. The Wildcats clings to a one point lead.
Kemba with the three ball. UConn up 14-12.
Kemba follows that up with a possible And-1 and the arm flex.
UConn out to a 19-12 lead with 8:17 left in the first half. Kemba seems to be shaking off the “Yipps.” He has 9 so far.
Knight with his first bucket of the night and he follows that up with a triple.
Apparently, if Calipari wins the title this year, his total compensation this season will be at least $4.1 million. Ching Ching!
Nice feed to Okwandu for the dunk!
UConn up by 8 now after Kemba pulled a 2-11 and led the fast break.
Kemba orchestrating a nice run for UConn. They have a 10-point advantage with 3 minutes left.
UConn takes a 31-21 lead at the half. Be back in 20.
Ralph Sampson at center court right now being inducted into College Basketball Hall of Fame. Wow. I haven’t seen or heard from him since, like, forever. He looks good, though.
STAT man back at it. For Kentucky, Brandon Knight shot a woeful 3-11 for 7 points, 1 assist and two turnovers. Gots to do better! As a whole, the ‘Cats shot 28.1 % from the field. No, you didn’t misread that. 28.1 %! 16.7 % from three-point land and 20 % from the charity stripe. Calipari must be skinning them in that locker room right now. UConn’s Walker shot 3-8 for 9 points, 6 dimes and 2 turnovers. Jeremy “No Silence of the” Lamb was 4-5 from the floor and has 8 points. As a whole, the Huskies shot 51.9 % from the field, 16.7 % from deep and 50 % from the FT line. Look for Kentucky to come out swinging in the second half. And really, anything would be better than that last couple of minutes of action before the half.
Knight drains a three to start the second half. Closes gap to 7.
What I tell you? I knew Calipari got in that arse during halftime.
Wow. That’s now 8 unanswered points by Kentucky.
Smith finally ends the drought for UConn.
Place erupted on that three ball. Crowd ready to go nuts if ‘Cats take the lead.
Crowd starting to get crazy as Kentucky takes the lead.
Kemba trying to keep ‘Cats from taking over. Shooting three at the FT line.
Knight sinks both freebies. UK up 39-38.
Lamb gives UConn the lead: 40-39.
Smith pads the lead to 3.
Nice follow dunk by Oriakhi!
Lamb keeps UConn on top: 46-42 with 8:30 to play.
Nice shot by Jones. Possible And-1.
Kemba has 16 points. Knight has 14.
Nice save by Kemba!
Kemba goes all the way for two. UConn up 52-48.
With 2:49 left to play, it looks like UConn just flat out wants it more.
There are 75,421 butts in seats tonight at Reliant. New record. Great for NCAA.
And just like that, it’s a 3 point game with 1:24 left.
Drake just spotted in the crowd reppin’ the ‘Cats.
Costly foul by Lamb on Liggins. Three FTs coming up.
And he chokes on the second FT.
Knight with the HUGE steal with 16 ticks left.
Napier does it again! HUGE rebound.
UConn pulls it out. Final score: 56-55
That’s it ladies and gents. See you Monday for the title game. Butler vs. UConn. Who you got?