#24: 2003 NCAA Tournament – Butler 47 vs. Mississippi State 46
In 2002, Mississippi State won the SEC Tournament and arrived at the big dance as a ‘3’ seed. But they were sent to Dallas, TX and had to play the Texas Longhorns in the 2nd round. State lost the game, which was widely considered unfair since MSU was the higher seed. But, the selection committee made up for their previous error by sending the Dawgs to Birmingham in 2003, and the ‘4’ seed was Louisville. Once the brackets came out, ESPN analysts chose Mississippi State to make the Final Four.
MSU won the SEC West in ’03 and even beat Ole Miss three times (3rd win was in SEC Tourney). They fell just short of a second straight SEC Tournament Championship losing on Sunday to Kentucky 64-57. The Bulldogs were led by Mario Austin (15.5/7.7), Timmy Bowers (14.6/3.8), and Derek Zimmerman (8.9/4.2/5.5).
Butler was the Horizon League Champ and came in with a 25-5 record. In their only game vs. a team from a major conference, they lost to Duke by 20 points.
Butler got out to a hot start in the game and was up 12-3 eight minutes in, but MSU quickly came back and it was 28-27 at halftime. Mario Austin came to play in his final game with 18 points (39% of the offense) and 10 rebounds, but Michal Ignerski didn’t in his.
Ignerski was a starter all year for State and averaged 9 PPG and 4.8 RPG, but he was 0 for 6 on the night and did not score any points. As the game remained tight throughout the 2nd half, he continued to miss shots. With :25 left and leading 46-45 Ignerski took a fade away jumper at the top of the key (see beginning of paragraph for the result of the shot).
Brandon Miller grabbed the rebound for Butler and took it up the court. 19 seconds later he hit a runner in the lane to take the lead 47-46. Timmy Bowers took the final shot, but he missed long from three and the game was over. It was clear, the MSU Bulldogs overlooked the Butler Bulldogs.
After the season, Mario Austin would become an early entry to the NBA Draft, Ignerski went back to Poland. Butler went on to beat Louisville and make the Sweet 16. Perhaps foreshadowing to their phenomenal runs to the NCAA Championship Game in 2010 and 2011.
Next: 2003 vs. Ole Miss