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Butler does Horizon League proud

(3/28/03)

Butler’s advancement to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament could be just what the Horizon League needs to gain respect in the nation’s eyes.

The Bulldogs (27-6) edged SEC power Mississippi State 48-47 in the first round and took out Louisville 79-73 with deft three-point shooting in the second round before falling to top-seed Oklahoma 65-54 in the East region semifinals Friday.

Butler stayed close with Oklahoma for most of the game and pulled within 50-47 on three-pointer by Mike Monserez with 6:15 left, but the Sooners were dominant defensively on the perimeter and eventually pulled away.

Despite the loss, the magical run was still sweet for the Bulldogs, the Horizon’s regular season champions.

“We were part of something special,” said senior center Joel Cornette, who Butler with 21 points and eight rebounds. “The special thing wasn’t making it here to the Sweet 16. It was being together. Being with these 13 guys was the best experience of my life. These were brothers, a big family that laughed, cried, enjoyed every minute of it.”

This was a big season for the Horizon League as Wisconsin-Milwaukee and UIC also made national postseason play.

Wisconsin-Milwaukee (24-8) won the Horizon tournament and took Notre Dame to the buzzer before falling 70-69 as Dylan Page missed an easy layup in the final seconds.

UIC (21-9) made its first appearance in the NIT and its second consecutive postseason appearance, but lost a heartbreaker to Western Michigan 63-62 in the opening round.

With Butler getting to the Sweet 16 and having three teams in the postseason, the Horizon League should be seen as a better conference going into next season.

The likelihood of getting at least two Horizon NCAA bids next year seems to be a great possibility with UIC the likely favorite to win the league. The Flames, with at least two Big Ten teams (including Illinois) on the schedule, could even have a great shot at an at-large bid. UWM, depsite losing Clay Tucker and Ronnie Jones, should still be a strong challenger, while Butler looks to reload after losing four senior starters.

RECRUITING UPDATE: Friday’s Chicago Sun-Times reported the Flames are also interested in Eisenhower guard Chris Hobson. The 6-foot-4-inch Hobson is a scoring machine as he averaged 21.4 points and 6.3 rebounds per game for the Cardinals. Loyola is also interested in Hobson.

Also, another note on Hubbard’s Othyus Jeffers, who also drawn interest from UIC. Former Flames guard Mark Miller is Jeffers’ cousin, which perhaps can work in UIC’s favor as signing day approaches in April.

In other recent news:
Flames' recruiting update (3/26/03)
FORMER FLAME UPDATE: Hallberg, Brown, Solverson (3/21/03)
Comeback effort falls short, season over for UIC (3/19/03)
Off to Kalamazoo: Flames brace for Western Michigan (3/18/03)
Flames invited to "Little Dance" for first time (3/17/03)
UWM whips Butler, gains automatic NCAA bid; Flames await call from NIT (3/11/03)
Flames fizzle down the stretch, repeat NCAA bid likely squashed (3/09/03)
Flames slaughter Penguins, UWM up next (3/07/03)
YSU-UIC set to clash in Horizon tourney (3/06/03)
Youngstown State snaps road streak, UIC up next (3/04/03)
Trio of Flames honored by Horizon League (3/03/03)
Flames get 20th victory (3/02/03)
Carr drives stake through Loyola's heart (2/28/03)
Here we go again: Brother vs. Brother, Vol. 2, No. 2 (2/26/03)
ALUMNI UPDATE: Notree a CBA star (2/24/03)