Barton women's basketball upsets two-seed Butler in regional semifinals
It is Butler's first region tournament loss since 2018.
WICHITA, Kansas—While the NCAA saw their fair share of upsets in this year’s conference and national tournaments, the NJCAA and the Region VI are trying to match them.
Queen Ulabo had 19 points and 10 rebounds to go along with the eight three-pointers as they knock off Butler 53-49 to advance to the Region VI Championship game on Saturday night.
For the Grizzlies (20-3), the loss ends their more than three calendar year reign over the region tournament. They also end their winning streak that has led them to the second seed in the region and ninth in the nation.
“We honestly didn’t execute tonight,” Butler head coach Mike Helmer said. “I don’t know for sure why or what changed. If we execute, we’re going to be fine.”
It’s Butler fewest points sine scoring 49 in a win over Pratt on March 2, 2019. It’s the fewest in a loss since Cloud County beat Butler 54-43 on Feb. 14, 2018.
It was never felt in the cards for the Grizzlies as Vanessa Oduah and Ulabo traded threes to give Barton the lead with 7:02 remaining in the first quarter.
They would never relinquish for the rest of the game.
“We didn’t match their intensity tonight,” Helmer said. “They played well give them credit.”
As Butler struggled to adjust to the officiating, they missed shot after shot inside the paint. As the shots veered off, their confidence went with it. Butler shot only 29 percent in the first half (9 of 31) and were a 1 of 9 from beyond the arc.
As Butler clawed to get back into the game, they were able to get within one on multiple occasions in the first half. That was until Ulabo hit back-to-back threes to widen the gap to seven.
Barton took a 30-23 lead into the break.
The Cougars came out and pushed the lead to 35-25 Oduah was able to hit the jumper with 6:40 remaining.
While Butler was able to push back into the game, getting within four throughout the second half but it seemed as if they shot themselves in the foot. Whether it was forcing a questionable shot or going too quickly with little control and turning over. They also struggled at the free throw line. They went 4 of 9 in the second half at the line, including Nard missing three consecutive free throws.
Those little things you need to win games and championships saw Butler fall short on Friday. As in the last few weeks, teams have packed the paint and forced Butler to find other ways to beat them. On Wednesday night, Butler rose to the challenge, hitting seven three-pointers. On Friday, Butler was a frigid 2 of 16 from deep.
“We were just cold and shot bad tonight,” Helmer said. “We got to be better and we got to work on that come next practice.”
It wasn’t without the fight of Nard, though. The Sophomore had eight points and 15 rebounds in the loss. She also two blocks.
Butler never found anyone to stand out, scoring wise. While Tamara Nard tried, it never felt as if Butler that take-over-a-game player they had in year’s past. Skyla Knight went 2 of 13 five points. She was 1 of 8 in the second half.
Mekayla Furman tried to get Butler going down the stretch, scoring five in an 8-0 run in the game’s final minutes but a missed three and then a miss by Nard with 20 seconds remaining sealed Butler’s fate. Furman finished with 14 points to lead Butler, all coming in the second ahlf.
They will now enter the small pool of teams eligible for an at large berth in the NJCAA National Tournament later this month in Lubbock, Texas. With their high ranking, the odds are with Butler to advance to the tournament.
“We’ll get together at my house or at the gym and go from there,” Helmer said.