INDIANAPOLIS – Here is the key to this game: 66.7percent, 61.5 percent and 100 percent.
Those are Butler’s first half numbers from the field (14-21), from beyond the 3-point line (8-13) and from the foul line (6-6) in their 70-45 victory over Wright State in the Horizon League Championship Game.
Butler’s Shelvin Mack hit a 3-pointer at the 18:56 mark to put Butler up 3-0 and the Bulldogs never trailed in the game.
A 3-pointer by N’gai Evans for Wright State pulled the Raiders within one at 6-5 with 17:18 left in the first half but after that Butler (28-4) just kept building their lead.
The Bulldogs hit double figures for good at the 4:26 mark when Ronald Nored made two fouls shots to make it 32-21 after being fouled by Ronnie Thomas.
By halftime it was 42-28 and that 14 point spread was a close as Wright State (20-12) would get the rest of the game.
Wright State went to a zone early in an attempt to stop Butler from cutting and driving the lane as they did in the prior game they played, however that opened up the outside and Butler lit it up from 3-point land. Mack was 4-6 and Butler’s Zach Hahn went 2-2, Nored went 1-1 and Willie Veasley went 1-2.
“We’re a little thin inside with some injuries and we were hoping we might slow his (Howard) game down and force Butler to make some outside shots. The last time we played, we opened up too many driving lanes and they go to the basket and finished,” explained Wright State coach Brad Brownell. “Tonight they made threes. When they see the ball go in early like that, then you know it’s going to be tough.”
Butler coach Brad Stevens thought that the hot start his team had coupled with some shots Wright State missed set the stage for his team’s runaway.
“When one team shoots it great and the other team misses a few sometimes you feel a lot better. That was the case tonight. I thought our perimeter defense was really good in the first 30 minutes and then they missed a few they usually make, coupled together you have the final score.”
In the second half Butler just kept expanding their lead until it hit 30 points at the 2:39 mark. When Butler and Wright State empties the bench, the Raiders closed the gap back down to 25 points.
Butler’s three victories of the year may have been their three best played games this year. Stevens said it came down to respect for Wright State that drives them to prepare so well for playing the Raiders.
He said, “It begins with a great deal of respect for their program. Our staff and players have a great deal of respect for their staff. Brad (Brownell) and their players are really good. Every time we play them we better bring our “A” game or we’re going to get beat, we know that.”
Wright State guard Vaughn Duggins thought that Butler was well prepared and that was key to their dominating win, along with his Raiders missing shots.
“Butler was well prepared. They obviously scouted our motion offense and some of our tendencies we have,” he explained. “They were on us like glue and they’re hard to shake free. The times we were able to shake free and get shots, we didn’t make them and that’s the more frustrating part, when you get open and can’t knock down a shot.”
One play that stand out late in the game was at the about the 9:38 mark and Butler leading by 25 points at 59-34, Howard dove into the front row of seats to save the ball which was grabbed by Shawn Vanzant and passed to Veasley for a layup.
Stevens pointed that play out as an important indicator of how hard Butler plays no matter what the score.
“That play will be shown for the next 20 years and the teaching point is that we’re up 20 points and he plays the right way to win the possession. I think that speaks to who he is, but it also peaks to who we all want to be everyday.”
Quote of the night:
“I apologize that we didn’t play better. We’re a better team than we showed tonight, but certainly Butler was playing at a high level.” Brad Brownell
- Butler is 43-3 in Hinkle Fieldhouse under coach Brad Stevens.
- This is the 5th straight year for Butler and 4th straight year for Wright State that they have achieved 20 wins.
- Butler is ranked #12 in both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today “Top 25.” They have been ranked each year since 2006-07.
- Former college coach Pete Gillen got here early tonight and held court at the scorer’s desk about 90 minutes before game time. It seemed like almost everyone stopped by to talk with him. He is doing the game for Westwood One Radio Network.
- Brad Brownell is 15-4 all-time in conference tournament games and 5-2 at Wright State.
- The Butler ROTC color guard had four big guys that looked like they could actually defend the country as opposed to a bunch of puny guys and little girls that you see at a lot of schools.
- Wright State had a large crowd there of well over 1000 people.
- Wright State’s three worst losses were to Butler, 12 points, 12 points and 25 points.