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Butler Can't Secure Horizon

March 12, 2003|From Associated Press

Wisconsin Milwaukee raced to a 21-4 lead and cruised past Butler, 69-52, Tuesday night at Milwaukee to win the Horizon League tournament championship and earn its first NCAA Division I tournament berth.

Horizon tournament most valuable player Clay Tucker said the Panthers were still smarting over losing the regular-season title to Butler on a last-second shot March 1.

"I'll tell you what really sparked this team was the fact that they took one from us," said Tucker, who had 23 points in the final. "We wanted to jump on them, throw the first punch and never let them back up.

"And that's just what we did."

The Bulldogs fell behind, 14-0, and never got closer than 12 points thereafter.

This was top-seeded Butler's sixth conference title game appearance in seven years and second-seeded Milwaukee's first.

With its automatic bid, Milwaukee (24-7) will be the third school from the state headed to the NCAA tournament. Eighth-ranked Marquette and No. 18 Wisconsin have assured themselves of tournament berths by winning the Conference USA and Big Ten regular-season championships, respectively. Both still have conference tournaments this week.

Butler (25-5) will have to wait until Selection Sunday to see if it gets an at-large bid.The Bulldogs expected one last year, but had to settle for the NIT.

Indiana Purdue Indianapolis 66, Valparaiso 64 -- Matt Crenshaw made an 18-foot jumper with one second left to give the Jaguars their first NCAA Division I tournament bid with a victory in the final of the Mid-Continent Conference tournament at Kansas City, Mo.

Indiana Purdue Indianapolis is in its fifth Division I season.

Josh Mullins led the second-seeded Jaguars (20-13) with 18 points and offset what could have been a crushing late turnover with a steal of the Crusaders' inbounds pass after Crenshaw's go-ahead basket.

Top-seeded Valparaiso (20-10), which had won seven of the last eight conference tournaments, managed only six field goals in the final 10 minutes.

Western Kentucky 64, Middle Tennessee 52 -- Mike Wells had 18 points and 10 rebounds as the Hilltoppers (24-8) won the Sun Belt Conference tournament at Bowling Green, Ky., and earned an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Middle Tennessee (16-14) had three scoreless spells totaling more than 13 minutes in the second half.

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