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Hoosier Cinderella? Butler, of course

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- With 2.6 seconds remaining and his team holding a 77-71 lead over Louisville, Butler center Joel Cornette grabbed his head with both hands and stared at the Bulldog fans. For once, the brash, quotable senior who filled notebooks on Friday night describing how he felt his team had been slighted in the press (including by those in the employ of ESPN), was out of words.

Shock. Disbelief. Incredulity. It was written on Cornette's stunned face, complete with agape mouth.

Afterward, he said it wasn't so much a feeling of surprise. This Butler team doesn't go into games thinking it might lose. But rather, the look on Cornette's face was the realization that there's more ball to be played in his senior year.

"We expect to win," said Cornette. "The shock and the excitement are because we're moving on."

Butler's next stop is the Sweet 16 after perhaps the best tournament game played without the aid of overtime or a buzzer-beating 3-pointer -- not that there weren't plenty of 3s in this one, too.

The Bulldogs' 79-71 upset of the fourth-seeded Cardinals featured great shooting and great defense. The Bulldogs stormed back after trailing by as many as 15 in the early going, then withstood an incredible second half by Louisville senior Reece Gaines (29 points, six 3s) to win. However, Gaines served as a backdrop and a supporting role to the NCAA Tournament's best leading man on Oscar night -- Butler senior guard Darnell Archey.

Archey, whom fellow backcourt mate Brandon Miller called the greatest shooter he has ever seen, hit a personal record eight 3-pointers (nailing all six of his attempts in the second half) as the Bulldogs displayed the same gritty play that helped upset Mississippi State two nights ago.

"I was in the zone," said Archey, who scored a career-high 26 points. "I felt like Michael Jordan in '92 against the Blazers."

But, from Archey's 3s to Mike Morserez's nine assists to Cornette's interior play to Duane Lightfoot's 14 points off the bench, it was a performance that exemplified what a great team Butler has become. In the second half, two coolers of Gatorade emptied into Cornette's shoes after he sailed over his own bench in chase of a loose ball. During a timeout, the Butler staff tried frantically to dry them off. Then quick-thinking reserve Rob Walls offered his own size 15 pair and Cornette laced them up.

"These are the glass slippers," said Cornette, pointing to his new sneaks.

Butler's Cinderella season will continue in no small part to Miller, the hero on Friday night. After hitting the game winner against MSU, Miller had to adjust his game against Louisville's fullcourt pressure.

"I just had to take care of the ball," he said. "That was my job tonight."

The 6-foot point guard with a boxer's mug (even he can't remember how many times his nose has been broken) had to fight off double- and triple-teams all day. In the halfcourt, Louisville tried to deny Miller the ball. But that strategy failed with 35 seconds to go and Butler holding a two-point lead. Near the halfcourt line, Miller took possession of the ball, drove the lane and dished to Lightfoot for the clinching layup. Lightfoot missed the and-one, but Gaines' final 3-point attempt rimmed out.

Shortly thereafter, the Bulldogs started hopping around the court, flexing their muscles, and holding their heads knowing they are headed for upstate New York and a matchup with Oklahoma.

"The greatest thing is we get to stay together," said Butler coach Todd Lickliter, whose switch to a zone defense frustrated the Cardinals. "I can't tell you how much fun it is to just be around these guys, to watch them prepare and compete. I just want to prolong this as long as possible."

So the kids from the Hoosier State that played like Hoosiers advance to the Sweet 16 after being snubbed by the selection committee last season. But they're still searching for respect. Cornette complained that no one gave them a chance against MSU, much less against Louisville.

"On paper, people think we're nothing," said Cornette. "They say we don't belong. We watched TV and we barely knew we were even playing today. Nobody gave us a shot. We're still here."

John Gustafson is a writer for ESPN The Magazine and frequent contributor to ESPN.com.