DAYTON – The day’s adventure starts at historic Hinkle Fieldhouse on a snowy afternoon in Indianapolis as Butler faced off against Southern Illinois and it ends on a snowy night at the Ervin J. Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University. Tonight’s game featured Cal State Fullerton and the Raiders.
Now some basketball fans around Tobacco Row, Mississippi or South Carolina or about anywhere else that BCS schools are located might actually know nothing about the Bracket Buster matches. But hardcore hoops fans look forward to this day as a chance to get to see a lot of great action and unusual match-ups from schools that are not always in the limelight.
Today’s game drew a near sellout of 10,827, which if you have been following the Horizon League is the exact same number of fans as Wright State drew against Butler a week earlier.
It was loud and it seemed like a tournament atmosphere. Of course, a large number of Saluki fans that made the trip certainly helped make the atmosphere very special.
Today No. 16 Southern Illinois put in end to No. 13 Butler’s 22-game home court winning streak as they upset the Bulldogs 68-64. The Salukis were led by Jamaal Tatum’s 20 points and it was their ninth straight win.
These two schools share a similar history. Both reached the Sweet 16 since 2000, they are both ranked in all the major polls and both defenses rank among the best in the NCAA.
In the first half it was pretty much the Salukis’ Traveling Road Show. Butler’s biggest lead in the first half was just two points at the 17:45 mark on a lay up by Mike Green to make it 2-0 Butler.
At the 7:25 mark in the first half Butler (24-4) had their last lead of the game on a 3-pointer by Brandon Crone at 18-17.
In the second half Southern Illinois (23-5) went on a 6-0 run to take their biggest lead of the game at 45-35. But Butler was not finished as Pete Campbell went to work making three 3-pointers Then Willie Veasley hit one of two free throws to cut Southern Illinois’ lead to 50-48 with 6:30 remaining in the game.
The Salukis pushed the lead back up to 60-52 and Butler again got close. This time they got to within three points on Crone’s 3-pointer at 63-60 with 1:28 left.
The Salukis got it up to 68 points by making five of six free throws to finally seal the victory.
Butler was led by Mike Green’s 18 points. A. J Graves only scored five points which was his lowest output of the season.
It was two evenly matched games and it was too bad there had to be a loser.
The night cap was a little different. As the fans fought the snow to get to the Nutter Center it was probably halfway through the first half before all 9641 fans found their seats.
There were over 10,500 tickets out for tonight’s game but a few decided to not brave the cold and snow tonight. The brave who turned out seemed to be pretty hardcore because they were loud, creating a great college basketball environment. There were even a few UNC-Wilmington fans that traveled up for the game to see their former coach Brad Brownell coach his new team, the Wright State Raiders.
It took a second half surge but Wright State took care of business against the Titans to win their ninth straight game 77-62.
In the first half Fullerton lead most of the half behind 14 points from Scott Cutley.
It wasn’t until Vaughn Duggins hit a 3-pointer with 54 seconds left in the first half that Wright State (21-8) was able to get their first lead at 33-31.
But Fullerton (18-7) let the air out of the Raiders’ tires when Bobby Brown hit a 3-pointer right at the buzzer to give the Titans a one point lead at 34-33.
Fullerton’s Ray Reed hit a jumper to make it 40-38 and that was the last lead the Titans would have in the game.
Vaughn Duggins hit another trey to start the Raiders on a 12-0 run that didn’t stop until Marcus Crenshaw hit a 3-pointer with 12:35 to play to make it 50-43 Wright State,
Wright State kept hammering away led by DaShaun Wood’s 19 points to get their lad up to 20 point when Wood hit a trey to make it 73-53.
It appeared that that the combination of the Raiders’ hot play, tough defense, a great crowd, senior night, the cold and snowy weather and the long trip out to Dayton, Ohio allowed the Raiders to pound out a victory.
For the Raiders Duggins scored 15 points, Will Graham 12 points and Scottie Wilson 11 points.
Fullerton’s 20 point a game stud Bobby Brown 12 points on a 5-13 shooting performance and Cutley finished with 20 points.
It was a long day of basketball, but it fun. Now back to conference play for all the teams
Bracket Buster notes:
*Poll Sitting—The Salukis are ranked 15th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and 16th in the AP poll. Butler is ranked 12th in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches poll and 13th in the AP poll.
*This is Southern Illinois sixth straight 20 win season.
*This is the first is the first time that a nationally ranked Butler team will host a nationally ranked team at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
*Since it was senior night at Wright State Coach Brownell started all four seniors and played them all until the first timeout at the 15:05 mark. All three of the other Bracket Buster teams in this column play more home games.
This is what he had to say about them:
-Renaldo Smith….”He always has a smile on his face and probably one of the funniest guys on our team. He is a very good defensive player and he has made some big shots for us this year.”
-Tyrone Scott…”He is a tremendous worker with a good attitude especially for a guy with so many injuries. He is a great role model for our freshman and he has a great work ethic.”
-Drew Burleson…”I think one of the better players in our league the last six weeks. It took him a little while to understand out system but once he did he just took off and played with a great deal of confidence. He will be a big loss for us.”
-DeShaun Wood…”One of the best guys to ever play at this school. He is a guy that can beat you in a lot of different ways. He is a great success story both on and off the court. He is really a great model for college athletics.“
*Southern Illinois’ next game is Wednesday at Indiana State at 7 p.m.
*Butler’s next game is on Monday at Green Bay at 8 p.m.
*Wright State’s next game is Thursday at Youngstown State at 7 p.m.
*Fullerton’s next game is Thursday night when they host UC Santa Barbara at 10:05 p.m.