Butler Cruises Past Green Bay In First Place Showdown

Shelvin Mack scored 14 points and Gordon Hayward added 13 to lead a balanced Butler squad to a 72-49 victory over visiting Green Bay in a Horizon League first place showdown at Hinkle Fieldhouse on New Year’s Eve.  The victory lifted the Bulldogs to 9-4 on the season and left Butler as the league’s last unbeaten team at 2-0.

Butler only trailed twice in the game and grabbed the lead for good less than four minutes into the contest.  The Bulldogs led by eight points, 35-27, at halftime and stretched the margin to as many 25 points in the second half.

Green Bay (10-5, 3-1), playing without leading scorer Rahmon Fletcher who was sidelined by injury, had its second-poorest shooting night of the season (17-48, .354) and suffered its second-largest margin of defeat (23 points).  The Phoenix had a season-low 22 rebounds.

“We played well and I’m proud of our guys,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after his team’s first game since suffering a 10-point loss at UAB on Dec. 22.  “I’m proud of the way we came back and the focus they had tonight.”

“Our guys believe in what’s important and what’s needed to be a better basketball team, and I think we did it tonight,” added the Butler coach.

Green Bay had leads at 2-0 and 4-3 and the game was tied at 6-6 and 8-8.  Junior Matt Howard broke the last tie with a free throw and the Bulldogs remained in front for the rest of the game.  Butler, which led by as many as 11 points in the first 20 minutes, scored the first six points of the second half and held a double-digits lead for the remainder of the contest.

“This week in practice, Coach (Stevens) did a good job of preparing us for the game,” said senior Willie Veasley, who finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and a career-high four steals.  “He really stressed playing as a team and not playing as five individuals.  Everybody came in focused and concentrated, and we just played our system.”

All 15 Butler players saw action in the game and 11 different players cracked the scoring column.  Mack, who led all scorers in the game, evenly split his points between the first and second halves, while Hayward scored eight of his points in the first half.  Senior Avery Jukes came off the bench with seven points, a total matched by Howard, and freshman Andrew Smith had career-highs of six points and eight rebounds in a career-high 11 minutes.

The Bulldogs, paced by Smith and Veasley, had a 39-22 rebounding advantage in the game.  Butler shot .464 (26-56) for the game.

Butler will begin the new year with a league game against Milwaukee at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Jan. 2.  That game will start at 2 p.m. (ET)