INDIANAPOLIS — When Butler center Matt Howard needed an assist, it was little-used freshman Emerson Kampen who made the shoestring save.
Howard broke a shoelace before Friday's practice — the one in front of 30,000 people at Lucas Oil Stadium — and Kampen quickly untied his left shoe, handed over the shoestring and spent the next 50 minutes shooting baskets with, essentially, one good foot.
It was Kampen's biggest contribution to the Bulldogs' Final Four run.
"We're all about each other, I think that's what all 15 of us do," said Kampen, who has played in only eight games this season. "We'll do whatever it takes to make each other better, that's what has gotten us here."
Many teams have an us-against-the-world credo, some kind of touchstone used when players describe how they compete — a fill-in-the-team phrase that is almost universal. Butler's players and coaches are no different, insisting they've made it to their hometown Final Four because they've stayed true to their principles and played basketball the Butler way.
The 19-word sentence — "The Butler Way demands commitment, denies selfishness, accepts reality, yet seeks improvement everyday while putting the team above self" — is open to individual interpretation. But the words truly mean something on the 4,200-student campus of a school founded by abolitionists in 1855, when the slavery question was pushing the nation toward civil war.
Take 2003, when Butler reached the NCAA tournament regional semifinals. Three senior players — two of them starters — spent the morning after their upset of Louisville selling tickets to their own Sweet 16 game in the Hinkle Fieldhouse lobby. One of those players, Darnell Archey, is now an assistant coach on Brad Stevens' staff.