December 12, 2009

Butler Holds Off Ohio State, 74-66

Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored 24 points and senior Willie Veasley added his first career double-double to lead Butler to a 74-66 victory over #13/15 Ohio State in a nationally-televised game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Dec. 12.  The victory lifted the Bulldogs to 7-3 on the season.

Hayward broke a 48-48 tie with a dunk early in the second half and sparked a 19-2 run that gave the Bulldogs a 67-50 lead with less than five minutes to play.  But the Buckeyes (7-2) stormed back with a 16-2 run to cut Butler’s margin to three points, 69-66, with under a minute to play.

Veasley then hit four consecutive free throws in the final 40 seconds and sophomore Ronald Nored came up with a steal and another free throw with 10 second remaining to close out Butler’s first victory over a “Top 25” team since December of 2008.

“I thought we were really good for about 32 minutes,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game.  “But they’re going to go on runs.  They’ve got a lot of good players, they’re really well-coached and they do good things.  Overall I felt good about the way we played them at both ends of the floor.

The Bulldogs (7-3) started strongly, using a 12-2 run in the first 10 minutes to build an 18-8 advantage.  Hayward scored six points in the run, junior Matt Howard had four and Veasley contributed two.

But the Buckeyes answered with their own 16-0 run late in the first half, and the visitors took a 36-34 lead to the locker room at halftime.  The game remained close through the first seven minutes of the second half, until Hayward’s dunk put the Bulldogs in front for good.

“We felt coming into this game that Butler was primed to play well, and I thought they did a tremendous job,” said Ohio State head coach Thad Matta.

“It all came down to rebounding the basketball in key stretches,” added the former Butler coach.

The Bulldogs had a 40-27 rebounding advantage in the game, led by Veasley’s game-high 10 caroms.  Hayward added eight rebounds and Howard had six.

“I told our guys before the game that if we won the rebound battle, we’d win the game, and I thought we rebounded as well as we have in a few years,” stated Stevens.

Hayward led four Butler players in double-figures.  Veasley added 15, one off his career-high, while Howard had 13 and sophomore Shelvin Mach chipped in with 12.  William Buford led the Buckeyes with 20 points and David Lighty had 16/

Mack had a team-high five assists, while Ronald Nored contributed four assists, three steals and a tenacious defensive effort on Ohio State long-range shooting ace John Diebler, who finished with seven points.

Butler will have a week off for final exams before returning to the Hinkle Fieldhouse court on Saturday, Dec. 19, against Xavier.