Matt Howard “I actually assumed there wasn’t going to be enough time. I tried to shoot it as quickly as possible.March 18, 2011 – 7:00 am by Steven Cuce
The #8 Butler Bulldogs appear to have regained the magic that made them last year’s “Cinderella” team of the tournament, but this time around it took just a tad bit of luck to get by #9 Old Dominion. As the Bulldogs took the floor with what appeared to be the last possession of regulation there was less than 30 seconds seconds remaining. Butler coach Brad Stevens likely did not have this play drawn up as the game winning shot, but in March Madness sometimes the lucky bounce is the best bounce for any team.
Senior guard Shawn Vanzant took the inbound pass and set up for the last play of the game as he drove right towards the basket when all of a sudden he appeared to have lost his footing. In a knee jerk reaction Vanzant just heaved a desperation shot at the hoop that his teammate, sophomore center, Andrew Smith, slapped in the air and off the backboard landing almost perfectly right in the hands of Matt Howard.
The senior forward had an easy rebound and layup opportunity that he put up quickly with his right hand before time expired. It may have been an ugly finish for the Bulldogs, but a win is a win and it gets Butler into the second round of the Southeast Regional.
Matt Howard joined ESPN Radio to discuss the final play of the contest as his buzzer beater put Butler past Old Dominion, if was he looking at the clock at all on the final put back, did he feel that if he just put the ball in his left hand for the lay up that it most likely wouldn’t have counted, what it was like in the huddle while the officials were reviewing his final shot and did playing against Duke last year help ease Butler for this last second shot opportunity in the game.
Take me through the final play as it unfolded for you? A lot of chaos there?
“A lot of chaos. We actually set up a play we’ve run a few times in that game and we wanted to get the ball into our big man Andrew Smith and give him a chance to work. Our guard didn’t see that he was open or didn’t think that he was open. Sean [Vanzant] dribbled in. I think he told me he stepped up on the guys foot or his leg gave out or something. He made a good play to just get the ball in the air. I think my guys went and jumped with Andrew [Smith]. Andrew Smith kept it off the backboard. I was there alone underneath the basket with the ball. It was a pretty easy play from there.”
Were you looking at the clock at all because you were down to five tenths of a second?
“I was not looking at the clock. I actually assumed there wasn’t going to be enough time. I tried to shoot it as quickly as possible. It seemed bang-bang as soon as I shot it. It sounded like the horn was going off, so you never know. Fortunately we had just enough time to get that shot off.”
We were saying here while waiting for the replays and the final review that if Matt Howard just put the ball in his left hand on the layup and it’s not going to count?
“Yeah you know it probably makes a little more sense to shoot it with the left hand, but I guess the right hand I was thinking is a little more reliable. You know that’s my dominant hand so. I just wanted to shoot it and catch it and shot it as quickly as possible. Going with the right hand is a little more reliable like I said.”
What was it like in the huddle after the buzzer beater waiting to see if your shot was good or not?
“Well coach [Brad Stevens] was able to calm us down and wanted to make sure that if there..he said ‘We’re going to do this if they put more time on the clock.’ That made me feel pretty good about it. It wasn’t that he thought we may be going to overtime. He was thinking there actually may be time [left in the game]. I knew the shot had gotten off in time. We were actually going through what we were going to do if they did put time on the clock and how we were going to defend it. He did a good job of distracting us. He probably knew what the result was going to be, but he did a good job of calming us down and distracting us.”
Did playing against Duke last year in the tournament help ease your team at the end of this game in this late game situation?
“We actually had a lot of games that sort of came down to the end. Obviously not as dramatic as that, but you know even though they ended up scoring the last six [points] of the game up until that we still felt pretty good and confident. You know let’s give this our best shot. We have the ball, so why not feel confident about it and our chance to score the basketball.”