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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, April 2, 2010

Butler draws nearly 30,000 for Final Four practice

Associated Press

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

A large crowd of nearly 30,000 attended the Butler practice session today for the NCAA Final Four college basketball tournament in Indianapolis. Butler faces Michigan State tomorrow in the semifinals.

AMY SANCETTA | Associated Press

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INDIANAPOLIS Butler didn't bring any tape measures to Friday's shootaround.

They sure could have.

Nearly 30,000 fans about four times their average home attendance showed up to see this year's NCAA tourney surprise team, giving the Bulldogs a real-life sense of the movie "Hoosiers."

"Yesterday, I didn't think it was a big deal to shoot in a dome because we're still shooting at 10-foot goals, and the lines are all the same," coach Brad Stevens said. "But I'm glad we got to shoot with a lot of people in here."

Butler, the hometown team, drew the most fans as the Bulldogs draw support from all corners of the state.

Mark Beard, who teaches government classes at Connersville High School, handed out blue-and-white pencils in honor of former student Matt Howard. The Bulldogs center was honored with his own day this week at Connersville, and Beard, who had Friday off because of a religious holiday, made the 66-mile drive to Indy and got a seat in the third row.

"We're all basketball fans in Connersville; it's such a big basketball town, so to get someone so far is exciting," Beard said. "The Howard family is so big in town. They have 10 kids, the dad delivers mail, the mom helps out at the school, everyone knows them and everyone wants to see him."

The fans gave the Bulldogs a prolonged standing ovation when they walked on and off the court.

During the 50-minute shootaround, Butler did what it could to entertain. Near the end of practice, the team gathered in a circle and started laughing. The reason?

"We were having a big debate about whether we going to wave or go over to the crowd, and coach was teasing us that we were afraid to go into the crowd," senior Willie Veasley said.

They took the safe road waving.