INDIANAPOLIS — Kansas – gone.

Kentucky – gone.

Syracuse – gone.

Little Butler – still going.

Gordon Hayward had 19 points and nine rebounds, including one with two seconds left that sealed the game Saturday night. The small school looked anything but, taking down another of college basketball’s biggest names with a 52-50 victory against Michigan State in the Final Four.

Butler (33-4) will play Duke in Monday night’s title game.

“We’ve been talking about the next game all year, and it’s great to be able to say the next game’s for a national championship,” Hayward said.

The entire state is along for the ride. Indiana and Purdue may be the traditional basketball powers, but it’s Butler – enrollment 4,200 – that’s big time now.

“If I was not playing, I’d be a Butler fan,” Michigan State Coach Tom Izzo said. “I like the way they play, I like their story. They play like a Big Ten team.”

Michigan State (28-9) has been on the edge all tournament, ravaged by injuries and squeaking through game after game, and this was no different. After trailing by as much as seven in the second half, Draymond Green made a pair of free throws to pull Michigan State within 50-49 with 56 seconds left.

Ronald Nored missed a jumper and Michigan State got the rebound. But Hayward wouldn’t give the driving Green an inch, forcing him to put up an awkward layup that didn’t come close. Nored scooped up the rebound and Green had no choice but to foul him.

Nored, who had been just 3 of 12 from the line in the tourney, made both shots, and the Bulldogs led 52-49 with six seconds left.

“One thing about us is there’s never a sense of fear,” Nored said. “We’re confident in everything we do.”

After a timeout, the Spartans inbounded the ball and Butler was all over them, choosing to foul rather than take a chance on the Spartans getting off a 3-pointer. Korie Lucious made the first and bricked the second on purpose, and Hayward came up with the ball to seal it.

“We might not have believed it when we said it in our first team meeting in the fall, but if we focus and do our jobs, then why can’t we play for a national championship?” Butler Coach Brad Stevens said. “That’s been our focus all along. I walked out of that room and kind of thought, ‘I hope we’ll get a chance to do this.’ This is a great story.”

And it keeps getting better.

Butler knocked off top-seeded Syracuse and followed with a victory over No. 2 seed Kansas State last weekend, the only Final Four team to beat the top two seeded teams in its region.

Just as Stevens did against the Orange and Wildcats, he found Michigan State’s weakness and went after it. Michigan State’s offense-by-committee had worked well enough without the injured Kalin Lucas, who led the Spartans in scoring until blowing out an Achilles’ tendon in the second-round victory over Maryland, but it fell apart against Butler.

Durrell Summers, who averaged 20 points in Michigan State’s first four tourney games, was held to 14. Green had 12, as did Lucious, who was playing in place of Lucas. Raymar Morgan, who spent most of the game in foul trouble, finished with four points.

Butler also forced Michigan State into 16 turnovers and held the Spartans to zero fast-break points.

“We had our chances to win the game, no matter what the circumstances, how many injuries, how many guys we had in foul trouble,” Izzo said. “We just couldn’t get in rhythm with anything.”

It wasn’t the prettiest of finishes. Butler went almost 11 minutes without a field goal after Willie Veasley’s layup with 12:19 left.

“It did seem like it was a long time,” said Hayward, who had only six points in the second half. “But for us, as long as we guard, we feel like we can be in the game. That’s what we’ve tried to do all year.”


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