PHOTO GALLERY (photos by Jim White)
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Junior Shelvin Mack scored a career-high 28 points and senior Matt Howard added 26 to help Butler hold off a hot-shooting Youngstown State team, 84-79, at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday, Jan. 9. The victory lifted Butler into a share of first place in the Horizon League.
Mack scored 15 points in the first half, while helping Butler to a 41-37 halftime lead. He added 13 in the second half, including Butler's final three points from the free throw line. The Bulldogs (12-5, 4-1, HL) needed every one of his points to offset a Youngstown State squad that put on a long-range shooting clinic in the final 20 minutes.
Youngstown State (6-9, 1-5 HL) hit eight of its first 10 three-point field goal attempts in the second half and finished the final period hitting 10 of 14 three-pointers. The sharp-shooting Penguins wound up hitting 14 three-pointers for the game, the most by a Butler opponent since Jan. 9, 2003 when Loyola hit 14 three-point field goals against the Bulldogs.
"I know the easy answer is to look at it and say we struggled today, and we did. But they had a lot to do with it," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "It seemed when they threw it up there, they were throwing it in an ocean from where I was sitting. There wasn't any doubt that they were going to make it."
Fueled by the hot hands of guards Blake Allen and Ashen Ward, the Penguins built an eight-point lead, 61-53, with 12:05 remaining in the game. But the Bulldogs rallied behind six straight points from Howard, including four from the charity stripe, and guard Ronald Nored hit a lay-up at 9:57 to tie the game at 61-16.
"I did get the ball in pretty good spots, and I wanted to attack the basket," said Howard of his key scoring spurt. "I was fortunate to get some calls and was able to knock down the free throws.
Youngstown State took its last lead at 76-74 on a three-point field goal by Ward, but Mack answered with his own three-pointer to put the Bulldogs back on top with two-and-a-half minutes remaining.
The game was tied for a final time at 79-79, but sophomore Andrew Smith tipped in a missed shot with a minute remaining to put the Bulldogs on top for good, 81-79. Mack then closed out the scoring with three free throws in the final minute.
Mack hit eight of 13 shots in the game, including five of nine from three-point range, and seven of eight from the free throw. His final total erased his previous career-high of 25 points against Louisville, UTEP and Milwaukee.
Howard scored 15 of his points in the second half. He hit seven of 11 shots from the field and 11 of 12 from the free throw line. He also grabbed six rebounds to share the team lead with teammate Shawn Vanzant.
Allen, who hit five of eight three-point field goals in the game, led the Penguins with 17 points, while Ward, who cashed four of six long-range shots, added 15. Devonte Maymon had 13 and Vytas Sulskis added 10. The Penguins shot 71.4% from three-point range in the second half and 58.3% for the game!
The victory pushed Butler into a four-way tie for first place with Detroit, Wright State and Valparaiso. The Bulldogs will meet two of those league-leaders this weekend when they visit Detroit on Friday, Jan. 14, and Wright State on Sunday, Jan. 16.