Matt Howard scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and
Gordon Hayward added 19 points and 11 rebounds to
lead visiting Butler to a 70-59 victory over Cleveland State in a
match-up of the Horizon League’s top two teams on Saturday,
Feb. 13. The win was Butler’s 15th straight, tieing the
longest winning streak in school history!
The 6-8 Howard and the 6-9 Hayward were dominant inside against a Cleveland State squad that started four guards. The two Butler players led the Bulldogs to a 46-20 rebounding advantage and a 22-9 advantage in second chance points.
“Obviously, the glass was a huge emphasis,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens after the game. “Our guys did a great job on the offensive glass.”
Butler (23-4, 16-0), which clinched the league regular season title on Thursday with a victory at Youngstown State, used its rebounding advantage to take control of the game in the second half. After taking a 29-27 halftime lead on a nifty full-court drive by Hayward in the final 0:03.9 of the first period, the Bulldogs opened the second half with an 8-2 run to gain a significant edge in the tightly-contested game. Howard scored the team’s first six points in the final period, and Hayward added the next two.
“(Cleveland State) is really aggressive in extending the floor, they’re really aggressive on the ball and (Aaron) Pogue is really aggressive in the post, so attacking the rim was a big deal,” noted Stevens of his team’s play. “We wanted to be able to attack off the bounce or in the post.”
Cleveland State (13-13, 9-5), which entered the game in second place in the Horizon League with a six-game winning streak, never recovered from Butler’s early second half punch. The Vikings fell behind by double-figures just under seven minutes into the final period, and Butler stretched the margin to as many as 14 points late in the game.
Howard scored 14 of his game-high total in the final 20 minutes, while Hayward had 15 in the second half. The combined 29 points by the two Butler players was just three points shy of the entire Cleveland State team.
“Matt got us going in the second half,” noted Stevens. “He made some great plays around the rim.”
“We wanted to get aggressive and go at them anyway possible,” said Howard of the Bulldogs early second half play.
Cleveland State, which hadn’t lost a league game at home since last season’s loss to Butler, jumped to an early six-point lead. But the Bulldogs battled back behind Howard and guard Shelvin Mack and led for most of the final five minutes of the first half. A three-point play by guard Norris Cole with just under four second left tied the game at 27-27, and set the stage for Hayward’s half-ending dash.
Mack finished with 11 points for the Bulldogs, who tied Butler’s 1999-2000 team for longest winning streak. Guard Ronald Nored added eight points, while forward Willie Veasley added seven points and seven rebounds.
Cole had a team-high 17 points for the Vikings, while teammate D’Aundray Brown added 14.
With the win, Butler became just the second team in Horizon League history to record a 16-0 mark. Green Bay finished the 1995-96 season with a 16-0 record.
Butler returns home to host UIC in a league contest on Wednesday, Feb. 17. That game at Hinkle Fieldhouse will start at 7 p.m. (ET)
(Photo by Ben Hornstein)