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No. 4 Seed Butler Bulldogs Sweet Sixteen Bound with Win Over No. 12 Seed Middle Tennessee State

INDIANAPOLIS, IN – The #21/24 Butler Bulldogs faced the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders in the Second Round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, March 18. Junior F Kelan Martin led the Bulldogs with a team high 19 points in the 74-65 win in Milwaukee. Butler advanced to its first Sweet 16 since 2011 and will play Friday in Memphis against the winner of Sunday’s North Carolina vs. Arkansas game. Butler is now 25-8. Middle Tennessee State, the 12th seed in the South Region, finishes at 31-5.

“Really proud of our guys. We beat a really good team in Middle Tennessee,” said Butler Head Coach Chris Holtmann. “We’ve got so much respect for how Kermit (Davis)’s team plays and how they compete. And we saw it in film for the last, you know, 36 hours and impressed. I loved our guys. I loved the fight they showed possession after possession. And players win games. We’ve got really good players and they had a heck of an effort.”

Photo: Butler Athletics/Butler Senior Forward Andrew Chrabascz

The Bulldogs opened the scoring on a jumper from senior F Andrew Chrabascz and a tip-in from junior F Tyler Wideman to build a 4-0 lead with 18:07 remaining in the first half. The Blue Raiders tied the game at 7-7 before graduate transfer G Avery Woodson connected on a three to give Butler a 10-7 lead with 14:31 in the first half. Shortly after, freshman G Kamar Baldwin hit a corner three for the 13-9 Butler lead at the 13:27 first half mark. The hot hand from deep continued as Woodson connected on another three ball for the 16-11 lead and junior F Kelan Martin splashed home a three to extend the lead to 21-13 with 10:29 before the break. The Bulldogs extended the lead to double digits on another three by Baldwin at 28-18 with 6:42 remaining in the first half. Another Butler trey fell as Kelan Martin hit another deep ball to extend the lead to 33-22 with 5:21 remaining before halftime. But a 9-1 run, including a three by Middle Tennessee State senior F Reggie Upshaw, brought the Butler lead down to 36-31 at halftime.

The Bulldog shot 50 percent (12-24) from the field in the first half, including 66.7 percent (6-9) from three. Middle Tennessee shot 40 percent (12-30) from the field in the first half, including 27.3 percent (3-11) from three. Butler held a 17-13 rebounding advantage, but coughed the ball up six times compared to four Middle Tennessee State turnovers.

The Bulldogs scored the first four points of the second half for a 40-31 lead with 17:57 remaining in the game. Another three by Kelan Martin gave Butler the 59-47 lead with 7:18 remaining. But Middle Tennessee State rattled off a 9-0 run, including a three by sophomore G Antwain Johnson, to cut the Butler lead to 59-56 with 3:40 remaining. Thankfully for the Bulldogs, Andrew Chrabascz knocked down a three from the left wing to end the Blue Raiders run and extend the lead to 62-56 with 3:25 remaining. Middle Tennessee State would not get any closer than five the rest of the way after Chrabascz’s three-pointer as Butler went 10-12, including 5-6 from redshirt senior PG Tyler Lewis, from the free throw line down the stretch.

The Bulldogs finished the game shooting 51.1 percent (24-47) from the field, including 53.3 percent (8-15) from three. Middle Tennessee State finished shooting 43.9 percent (25-57) from the field, including 21.1% (4-19) from three. Both teams finished with 28 rebounds. The Bulldogs scored 14 points off of 12 Blue Raiders turnovers while surrendering zero points on 10 Butler miscues. Butler never trailed in the game.

Martin led the Bulldogs with 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 3-6 from three. Martin and redshirt senior G Kethan Savage each pulled down six rebounds. Senior F Andrew Chrabascz added 15 points with 13 of those coming in the second half. Freshman G Kamar Baldwin had 13 points. He, Martin and redshirt senior PG Tyler Lewis each had four assists as the Bulldogs helped on 16 of their 24 made field goals.

Butler’s defense, led by Baldwin, held Middle Tennessee State junior G Giddy Potts scoreless on eight shots. He averaged 15.8 points per game entering Saturday’s contest, most recently earning Conference USA Tournament MVP honors. Redshirt senior F JaCorey Williams led the Blue Raiders with 20 points and nine rebounds. Antwain Johnson added 19.

The Bulldogs advance to their sixth Sweet 16 (1962, 2003, 2007, 2010, and 2011) with the win. Butler is now 10-0 in the NCAA Tournament against teams seeded lower than the Bulldogs. Butler is the No. 4 seed in the South Region.

North Carolina and Arkansas play Sunday in NCAA Tournament action.

Chris Fultz is a Senior Writer for the Indiana Sports Report and is recognized as an accredited member of the media by Butler Athletics and has full media access. Follow @CafultzISR and the @IndySportsRep on Twitter.

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