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Washington Notebook

Butler serving notice

Bulldogs back in the drama business

Matt Howard sinks the winning basket for Butler at the buzzer. Matt Howard sinks the winning basket for Butler at the buzzer. (Associated Press)
By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / March 18, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Call this one “Hoosiers Revisited.’’

The last image of the Butler basketball team was of a potential game-winning shot from halfcourt bouncing off the rim last spring in Indianapolis, ending a heartbreaking 61-59 loss to Duke in the NCAA championship game.

Fast-forward to another NCAA Tournament, one the Bulldogs began with nine losses, a No. 8 seed, and a game against Old Dominion.

Tie game, clock winding down . . . forward Matt Howard puts in a layup at the buzzer to give Butler a 60-58 win yesterday that sends it into tomorrow’s third round against No. 1 seed Pittsburgh.

Howard, a 6-foot-8-inch senior, made the winner after Shawn Vanzant’s desperate, twisting, off-balance attempt hit nothing but air. The ball was kept alive by Andrew Smith and landed in Howard’s hands as the clock ticked toward zero.

Howard did not miss, and the only uncertainty was whether he got the shot off before the buzzer. The officials checked, and the replay confirmed what the screen above was showing — a game-winner for Butler.

“I think a lot of the credit goes to Andrew,’’ said Howard, who scored 15 points and pulled down six rebounds in a game that had 21 lead changes and no lead larger than 6 points. “He made a great play keeping it alive. And my guy, I think, went with him on that jump.

“It’s pretty easy when it’s just you and the ball and the rim. It was just throw it in. I was thinking there wasn’t going to be any time. I was just trying to get it up as quickly as possible.’’

ODU overcame a 6-point deficit in the final three minutes. When Kent Bazemore made a pair of foul shots with 32 seconds left, the game was tied — until Howard’s shot.

“It’s crazy,’’ said junior guard Shelvin Mack. “You always watch these kind of things on television and you never get to be part of it, but today you get to be a part of if.’’

Tight spots The Big East set records with 11 teams in the NCAA field and four in one regional (East), but that is no guarantee of success. Although No. 6 seed West Virginia came back to knock off No. 11 seed Clemson, 84-76, fourth-seeded Louisville was stunned on a buzzer-beater by No. 13 seed Morehead State, and No. 1 seed Pitt had to use its energy to overcome No. 16 seed UNC-Asheville, 74-51 . . . How good is this tournament from an entertainment standpoint? Of the first six games played yesterday, four were decided by last-second baskets.

Mark Blaudschun can be reached at blaudschun@globe.com.