Butler needs to bring back shooting touch vs. Duke - KMOV.com

Butler needs to bring back shooting touch vs. Duke

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Brad Stevens is clamping down on all the talk about defense.

Now, he's all about the offense.

One day after a dreadful shooting performance in the national semifinals, the 33-year-old Butler coach walked into Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday and quickly tossed aside any notion that defense will win Monday night's championship game against Duke.

"If we go 15 for 49, we can call it a heck of a season and say it's nice to be the runner-up," Stevens said. "We've got to shoot better and score more points because they're going to score some points -- we just can't let it be easy."

The disparity between Butler's shooters and Duke's shooters was painfully obvious in the semifinals.

Duke tied a Final Four record with 13 3-pointers against West Virginia. The Blue Devils made 52 percent from beyond the arc, shot 52.7 percent from the field and got 63 of their 78 points from their Big 3 -- Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer.

Butler, meanwhile, had to overcame its second-worst shooting performance of the season. It made only one basket in the final 12:18 and failed to hit a 3-pointer in the second half, but still held off Michigan State 52-50.

That's not typical Butler basketball.

From the days when former coach Barry Collier started rebuilding the program in the 1990s, Butler coaches searched Indiana's cities and small towns to find the purest long-distance shooters. They brought them in from places like Brownsburg and New Castle and Switz City, and now Stevens needs his current players to start making shots.

"We just need some shots to fall," forward Gordon Hayward said. "Those were shots that I've seen everybody hit any other day of the week, so I'm confident that will be back Monday night."

It's a delicate balancing act for a team that prides itself on defense.

The Bulldogs are playing for a title because they are the first NCAA finalist in the shot-clock era to reach the championship game by holding all five opponents to fewer than 60 points.

Though Stevens would like to see Butler make it six straight, he knows that's unlikely -- which means Butler has to start scoring.

The good news is that confidence has never been an issue for Butler (33-4). The bad news: Depth is the new concern.

Center Matt Howard, the 2008-09 Horizon League player of the year, could miss the game with a concussion. The 6-foot-8 junior missed Sunday's practice and Stevens said his availability will be a game-time decision.

Howard is No. 3 on the team in scoring (11.6 points) and is Butler's second-leading rebounder (5.2) as well as their strongest inside player. His absence would really hurt on the defensive end, but would also put more pressure on their outside shooters.

"If Matt can't go, there may be a few more perimeter shots," senior swingman Willie Veasley.

The Bulldogs also aren't sure whether Shelvin Mack, a first-team all-conference guard who averages 14.2 points, will be 100 percent. He left the Michigan State game twice because of muscle spasms in his thighs and was given intravenous liquids after the game. Mack said he was dehydrated, the result of food poisoning.

"He kind of opened up to us (during the game) that he was a little sicker than he let on," team trainer Ryan Galloy said. "He's a 19-year-old kid who wanted to play in the Final Four. But we got him IV-ed up and he should be good to go."

If both can play, and are effective, then Butler may have the perfect blueprint for a major upset.

Three of Duke's five losses this season came against teams playing with three guards and four of the losses came against teams that shot at least 44 percent from the field.

The common denominator: All five topped 70 points.

The Bulldogs, even with the 6-foot-9 Hayward and the 6-foot-3 Mack becoming bigger threats as penetrators, are still a guard-dominated team that averages 69 points and shoots 44.5 percent from the field -- even though it didn't look like it against the Spartans.

"Maybe their length affected us," backup guard Zach Hahn said. "But we've just got to start shooting better."

It's not that the Bulldogs can't shoot the ball.

But in three of their last four NCAA tourney games, Butler has shot 40 percent or worse from the field -- their worst stretch of the season.

Can they turn it around in time to bring home a championship?

"Our guys find a way, they've always found a way," Stevens said. "As far as playing better, I thought we played pretty well last night, we just missed some shots and we can't go 15 for 49 again and win."

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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