SALT LAKE CITY - Willie Veasley glanced up while running back on defense as his 3-pointer bounced high off the rim like so many of Butler's shots had before.
He paused, though, as the ball drifted back, caromed off the backboard and fell through the net - a huge bounce that helped seal the Bulldogs' 63-59 upset of top-seeded Syracuse last night in the West Regional semifinals.
Veasley followed his fortunate 3 with a tip-in as the Bulldogs scored 11 straight points and became the latest mid-major team to knock off a top seed in the NCAA tournament.
Now, after reaching the regional finals for the first time in school history, Butler is one win from going home to Indianapolis for the Final Four.
"I was headed down the court on defense because I figured it was going to go over the top of the backboard. But I looked back and it came down and went through," Veasley said. "That was a H-O-R-S-E shot. I've never made a shot quite like that."
Veasley pumped his fist and grinned as he continued toward the other end. It was fitting that he was already headed back on defense. Instead of Syracuse's vaunted zone controlling the game, Butler's pesky man-to-man defense was the difference as the Bulldogs scrapped through poor shooting and won their 23rd straight game.
"We said this word over and over in Indianapolis, and that word is 'resolve.' These guys have resolve," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "It's hard to measure, but they've got it."
The Bulldogs (31-4) certainly did in the last five minutes, holding the Orange without a point from the time Syracuse went up by four with 5:23 left until a layup with 35 seconds remaining.
Gordon Hayward scored 17 points and started the celebration while dribbling out the clock after the Bulldogs forced Syracuse into its 18th turnover.
The Orange (30-5) made only three more field goals than turnovers in another loss in the round of 16. Syracuse hasn't played in the regional finals since winning the 2003 national title.
"The game was a story of turnovers. They didn't make turnovers," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said.
Veasley finished with 13 points and three steals. Ronald Nored finished with five steals and hit a 3-pointer to start the decisive run.
"Under any circumstance, I think we're poised. You have to be tough," said Nored, whose 3-pointer with 3:14 left cut Syracuse's lead to 54-53.
Wes Johnson had 17 points and nine rebounds for the Orange, the second No. 1 seed to go down. Northern Iowa stunned top-ranked Kansas last weekend.
Scoop Jardine added 14 points and five assists, and Andy Rautins scored 15, including a 3-pointer to open the second half. That sent the Orange on a 15-4 run that gave them their first lead.
But the sloppy Orange couldn't overcome all their turnovers, and the 2-3 zone that so many wondered whether Butler could crack was no match for the Bulldogs' sharp shooting in the final minutes.
"We knew they pride themselves on defense and they played us tough," Johnson said. "We accomplished a lot this season as the expectations for this team weren't very high. We won games we weren't supposed to and won the Big East Conference outright. We have a lot to be happy about. But to lose like this, it hurts."
KENTUCKY 62, CORNELL 45
SYRACUSE, N.Y. - John Wall and top-seeded Kentucky overcame an early deficit with a swarming defense, stopping Cornell's captivating NCAA tournament run in the East Regional semifinals.
With much of the Carrier Dome crowd - and the country - pulling for an upset by the 12th-seeded Ivy Leaguers, Cornell bolted to a 10-2 lead in the opening minutes.
But quickly, Wall and the Wildcats (35-2) displayed all the NBA-caliber talent that makes them a traditional powerhouse. Kentucky led 32-16 at halftime and made it 38-21 before Cornell (29-5) climbed back into it.
Ahead by 40-34 with 5 1/2 minutes left, coach John Calipari's team kept its composure and advanced to play No. 2 seed West Virginia tomorrow.
KANSAS ST. 101, XAVIER 96
SALT LAKE CITY - Jacob Pullen made a 3-pointer with 31.2 seconds left in the second overtime for the go-ahead points in second-seeded Kansas State's victory in the West Regional semifinals.
Terrell Holloway answered with two free throws, but Pullen came back with two of his own. Then, Xavier's Dante Jackson missed a 3-pointer that would've tied it and the Wildcats (29-7) iced it. They will play fifth-seeded Butler tomorrow.
Xavier's Jordan Crawford hit a 35-foot shot with 4 seconds left in the first OT to tie it. Holloway sent the game into the first overtime by making three straight free throws after being fouled while shooting from behind the arc with 5 seconds left. Crawford led Xavier (26-7) with 32 points and Pullen led the Wildcats with 28, including eight in the second overtime.40.75951 -111.8882
Willie Veasley glanced up while running back on defense as his 3-pointer bounced high off the rim like so many of Butler's shots had before.