INDIANAPOLIS – This group of Butler seniors have been ranked since the third week of this season, were ranked most of last year, won last year’s Pre-season NIT, won this year’s Great Alaskan Shootout, knocked off Ohio State, Maryland, Purdue, Tennessee, Michigan, Texas Tech, Gonzaga, Notre Dame, Virginia Tech and Florida State over the last two years, but they never have cut down the nets in the Horizon League Championship.
They can now cross that off of their to-do list since they beat Cleveland State tonight in the Horizon League Championship on their home court 70-55.
Early in the first half it looked like a Butler beat-down of Cleveland State as Drew Streicher hit two 3-pointers and Mike Green, Pete Campbell and A. J. Graves all hit 3-pointers to go up 20-6 at the 13:24 mark.
But Cleveland State (21-12) regained their composure and fought back behind J’Nathan Bullock’s nine points to tie it at 34-34 on two free throws by Cedric Jackson with 1:50 remaining in the half.
Two free throws by Green and another two by Graves sent Butler (29-3) into the locker room up 38-34.
In the second half the Bulldogs came out firing as Green and Streicher both hit 3-pointers to put Butler up 43-36. But a 3-pointer by Bullock and a layup by D’Audray Brown got the Vikings within two points at 43-41.
That is when Butler put the lockdown on Cleveland State, for just about the next 10 minutes Cleveland State was held to just three points as Butler scored 17 points to go up 60-44.
According to Cleveland State coach Gary Waters that was the difference in the game.
“They clamped down a little harder defensively and I thought they did a better job on us in the second half,” said Waters. “For about 10 minutes we had a hard time scoring. I thought that was the difference in the game.”
Butler coach Brad Stevens thought it was some adjustments they made in the second half and rebounding that allowed his team to open up the game in the second half.
“I thought our guys adjusted and did a better job on the glass. I thought the first two processions of the second half when we turned them over set a tone for the rest of the game,” explained Stevens.
From that point on Butler held a double digit lead until the end.
“It is something we talked about from the beginning of the year we were setting our goals. None of us had ever cut down the nets in March, “said a relieved Streicher. “Fortunately we were able to play here at Hinkle. To cut them down here was very special. I think it is something we are going to treasure forever.”
Green led all scorers with 24 points and pulled down 13 rebounds too. Bullock led the Vikings with 21 points.
-Butler has been nationally ranked (Top 25) for 33 weeks since November 27, 2006.
-Butler set a new Horizon League record for the best two-year total with 57 victories since the start of last year.
-This is Cleveland State’s first ever appearance in the Horizon League Finals.
-As strange as this may seem this is the first time Cleveland State and Butler have met in the Horizon League Tournament.
-Former Wright State coach Ed Schilling was in attendance sitting next to his father former Butler player and Hall of Famer Big Ed Schilling.
-Cleveland State had maybe 50 enthusiastic fans in attendance which would be the most fans the Vikings have produced at a league tournament road game since they joined the Horizon League in 1994.
-This is Butler’s first Horizon League Championship they have won on their home court.
-At the end of the game about 40 Butler students from the Dawg Pound ran on to the court for the obligatory celebration on ESPN, the other few hundred of the Dawg Pound Students stayed in their bleachers at the end of the court and cheered like this was just another win. The Dawg Pound had just a few hundred students tonight instead of the usual thousand or so they usually have. Their numbers are a little low since it is Spring Break on campus.
-Brad Stevens had a little piece of the net in his pocket during the game tonight from 2001, Butler’s last Horizon League Championship.
-This is Butler 5th championship since 1997, second only to Xavier’s six championships.
-The all-tournament team:
Mike Green -MVP - Butler
Matt Howard - Butler
J’Nathan Bullock - Cleveland State
Drew Streicher - Butler
Jarryd Lloyd - Valpo