INDIANAPOLIS - It is Saturday afternoon in Indiana and today 5000 college basketball fans including Governor Mitch Daniels are engaging in the state pastime, which is basketball.
And there is no better place to watch college basketball than Butler's historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. Today is another classic basketball experience with the sun shining in the windows high above the court and Evansville, a traditional regional rival, invading with a legion of purple-clad fans in attendance.
Today is the 114th time that Evansville and Butler have faced off. These two old foes have a long history having played against each other in the old Indiana Collegiate Conference 1950-77 and in the Midwestern Colligate Conference (now Horizon League) 1979-94.
This game ended for Evansville the same way every game against Butler since 2000 ended and that was in a loss as Butler wins again 75-59.
It took just 13 seconds into the game for Butler to draw blood as freshman Shelvin Mack hit a 3-pointer on a feed from Gordon Haywood. A minute later Evansville's Jason Holsinger hit a 3-pointer to tie the game at three points each.
The game stayed close most of the first half with Evansville (3-1) getting their only lead of the game on a jump shot by Denver Holmes to make it 11-10 at the 14:30 mark.
As the time ticked down in the first half the Purple Aces pulled to within one point at 31-30 as Holmes made two foul shots after being fouled by Matt Howard.
Butler's Will Veasley made a lay up and then 49 seconds latter sunk two foul shots after being fouled by Kaylon Williams to give Butler a 35-30 halftime lead.
Evansville coach Marty Simmons felt fortunate to be only down by five at the half with his team shooting just 38.1 percent (8-21) from the field.
"We didn't really have any good rhythm. We came out, gave up the lob to Haywood," explained Simmons.
Simmons was referring to the first play of the second half when Matt Howard lofted a lob that Haywood jammed in for a thundering dunk to put Butler (5-0) up 37-30.
"They do what they do a lot better than we do what we do," continued Simmons. "They play with a lot of confidence. They just kind of bring new players in and believe in their style of play. They have very smart, good, sound basketball players."
Evansville did follow up the Haywood dunk with a layup by Pister van Tongeren to get the score back within five points at 37-32.
From that point on Mack went on the attack. During a little more than a four minute stretch starting at the 17:42 mark Mack hit a 2-pointer, a 3-pointer and two free throws that put the Bulldogs up by 10 points at 49-39.
When the smoke cleared Mack put in 13 points in the second half for a total 18 points for the game which led all scorers.
"We just kept running the plays and finally I got the shot. Coach just told us to go out and play," said a very matter-of-fact Mack.
Butler coach Brad Stevens was impressed by Mack's shooting from the field, as well as his whole team's second half play.
"When you score 18 points on 11 shots and don't shoot any free throws, that is pretty good," said Stevens. "We played our best half of basketball and that contributed to the win. I thought we played at both ends of the floor."
At the 2:48 mark Butler got the lead to 23 points at 72-49 which was their largest lead of the game on a layup by Mack before the Purple Aces whittled the lead back down to the game ending 75-59.
Stevens was most impressed with the adjustments his team was able to make during the game to keep Evansville off balance.
"Being able to adjust on the fly, they do some things defensively that make you attack and our guys did a pretty good job making the adjustments," said Stevens.
-Evansville leads the 88-year-old series against Butler 60-53, but the Bulldogs are 9-1 in the last 10 games. This series is Butler's long active series.
-All five Butler starters are making their first start versus Evansville.
-Butler is 48-4 in non-league games at Hinkle Fieldhouse since 1999-00.
-Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is a long-time Butler fan. He loves to tell the story of attending Butler games as a kid when you could get a season ticket for five dollars.
-Butler had the most wins of any Division I team in Indiana for the third straight year last year.
-Butler has won nine straight games against Indiana opponents.
-Former Wright State coach Ed Schilling was in attendance with former Butler player Julian Betko.
-Butler's next game is Thursday December 4th at 8 p.m. and will be carried on ESPNU.
-Evansville - next game is Tuesday December 2nd at home against SIU-Edwardsville at 7:05.