Betko and Bulldogs upset Tennessee
New York, NY (Sports Network) – Julian Betko and A.J. Graves both tallied 15
points as Butler stunned 22nd-ranked Tennessee, 56-44, in the semifinals of
the NIT Season Tip-Off at Madison Square Garden.
The Bulldogs (5-0) will now move on to face Gonzaga in the finals on Friday.
Gonzaga upset second-ranked North Carolina in the other semifinal.
Betko finished 6-for-9 from the floor, including 3-of-5 from long range en
route to scoring a career-high for the Bulldogs, who earned their spot in the
semifinals by posting back-to-back upsets over Notre Dame and Indiana in the
NIT Midwest Region. Brandon Crone added 10 points for the Bulldogs.
JaJuan Smith was the only Volunteers (4-1) player in double figures with 16
points. Chris Lofton added eight points for the Volunteers, who were coming
off a 99-65 blowout victory over Coppin State.
Butler found themselves down three entering the second half but took control
early and used a stifling defense to pull away.
Tennessee shot a miserable 3-for-29 in the half and scored just 19 points in
Betko’s triple from the right wing gave the Bulldogs a 41-34 edge with 11:09
A pair of free throws from Smith brought Tennessee to within six, 46-40, with
7:49 on the clock.
But, Butler put things away with five straight points highlighted by a Brian
Ligon layup over the next 3 1/2 minutes.
The Volunteers couldn’t recover from there as they continued to struggle from
The Volunteers looked like they would take control of the game in the first
half but Butler closed the opening frame with a 14-4 run to cut Tennessee’s
lead to just three, 25-22, at intermission. The Bulldogs overcame the
Volunteers’ brilliant long-range marksmanship by forcing 14 turnovers in the
Butler was making its first appearance at Madison Square Garden since 1959.
That year, the team defeated Fordham, before losing to Bradley in the
NIT…Tennessee and Butler have met on just one previous occasion, with the
Bulldogs posting an 81-66 triumph all the way back in 1985.