Butler's best defense? Lock-down guards

Butler can celebrate a trip to the Final Four thanks to its defense. Christian Petersen/Getty Images

SALT LAKE CITY -- Butler forward Gordon Hayward was named the West Regional's Most Outstanding Player on Saturday.

Guard Shelvin Mack was named to the All-West Regional team.

But Bulldogs guards Ronald Nored and Willie Veasley might have had the biggest impacts in No. 5-seeded Butler's 63-56 upset of No. 2-seeded Kansas State in Saturday's West Regional final at EnergySolutions Arena.

Together, Nored and Veasley helped hold Kansas State guards Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen to only two points combined in the first half. The Wildcats guards came into the game combining to average 46 points in their previous three NCAA tournament games.

"I think I'm sure you noticed we played a lot of attention to them," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "Every ball screen, we tried to trap, which is a little bit different than our normal [plan]. We wanted to try to make their bigs take jump shots. I think the first eight minutes, that was really proving itself to be happening."

Nored, a 6-foot sophomore from Homewood, Ala., drew the tough assignment of guarding Pullen, who averaged 25.7 points in the previous three NCAA games. Nored hounded him, just like he shadowed Syracuse's Andy Rautins in Butler's 63-59 upset of the No. 1-seeded Orange in Thursday night's regional semifinals. Pullen was scoreless in the first half and took only two shots.

On Friday, Nored said he watched highlights of about 60 shots by Pullen in the last few games.

"No one was really physical with him," Nored said. "A lot of people lost him. I wanted to stay with him and stay really physical with him when he came off screens. After you're getting chased and pushed time after time throughout the game, your shot doesn't feel as good."

Veasley, a 6-foot-3 senior from Freeport, Ill., drew the tough assignment of guarding Clemente. In the upset of Syracuse, Veasley guarded 6-7 forward Wesley Johnson, one of the country's best players.

"He goes from guarding the the most athletic player in the country to the fastest player in the country," Nored said. "That tells you how versatile he is."

Clemente scored 18 points on 7-for-17 shooting. Kansas State coach Frank Martin said Clemente was hobbled by two deep thigh bruises he suffered running through two ball screens early in the game, but was still able to finish.

"They came out and stayed with those two guys and hounded them," Martin said. "We accepted their ball pressure, took hurried shots and hurried possessions, which is what they try to do to people."

It was the exact blueprint Butler hoped to follow.

"We just tried to slow them down and make them as uncomfortable as possible," Veasley said.

Clemente scored 16 points in the second half and finished with 18. Pullen scored all of his 14 points in the second half.