Butler campus shares in its team pain from afar

BY foxsports • April 4, 2011

If you thought Butler fans couldn’t suffer more heartbreak than they did when Gordon Hayward’s half-court shot bounced off the iron in last year’s final against Duke, you’d be very, very wrong.

“This year was worse,” said Stephen Harder, a fan from Indianapolis who watched the Bulldogs’ 53-41 loss to UConn at the Hinkle Fieldhouse viewing party. “You felt it slipping away about halfway through the second half. Last year, we were in it to the end.”

The diehards assembled at the Bulldogs’ home arena on Butler’s campus started out Monday evening more animated than they were on Saturday night during the team’s 70-62 victory over VCU. They danced more, did a full-arena wave before tip-off and even shoved aside their Midwestern politeness to boo the projected image of UConn’s Kemba Walker.

And after a first-half buzzer-beating 3 from Shelvin Mack, the fans were abuzz.

“We think that this team has what it takes,” one alumnus said.

But as Butler’s shooting went ice cold, so did the fans. Most sat with hands over their mouths, removing them only to shout at every miss. With about three minutes left and a timeout in a game the Huskies had all but clinched, a DJ played Kanye West’s “Stronger,” which includes the lyrics, “That that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.”

It was a perfect moment for some fans headed to the exits. Minutes after the final horn, the area outside the fieldhouse was silent.

Despite the odds stacked against the Bulldogs making a Buffalo Bills-like run to a third straight final, one longtime supporter looked past the devastating loss.

“I’m proud of those guys,” said John Conolly, class of ‘55. “They’re gonna have to do it next year.”