PHOTO GALLERY (photos by Jim White)
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Senior Matt Howard turned in the best overall performance of his Butler career and the Bulldogs held off a late charge by visiting Green Bay to post an 81-75 Horizon League win at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday (Jan. 21). The win helped the Bulldogs maintain a share of second place in the league standings.
Howard finished with a game-high 29 points, one off of his career-high, and a career-high 16 rebounds. He hit 13 of 17 free throws in the win, missing his career-high for free throws made by two and for attempts by one. The 6-8 forward had 17 points in the first 20 minutes, while helping Butler to a 40-32 halftime lead.
The Bulldogs (14-6, 6-2 Horizon League) had to overcome a nine-point deficit in the first half and then had to scramble to protect the last remnants of a 21-point lead late in the game. Green Bay (10-10, 4-4 HL) had Rahmon Fletcher's three-point field goal attempt to tie the game with 0:35 left rim out, and the Bulldogs held on by hitting three of six free throw attempts in the final 0:30.
"Credit Green Bay for the way they played and the resilience they played with," said Butler coach Brad Stevens. "They're a good team. They're a scary team with two guards who can put you on your heels a little bit. We paid a lot of attention to them, and I thought we did a really good job on Fletcher until the last five minutes of the game."
"The other kids on that team really stepped up and made plays. Sometimes you pick your poison a little bit and sometimes guys step up and burn you."
One of the guys who stepped up for the Phoenix was junior Steve Baker. He scored 13 points in the first half and helped Green Bay build a 22-13 lead in the first 10 minutes. The 6-2 guard had hit just three of nine three-point field goal attempts in Green Bay's first seven league games, but he cashed four of five against the Bulldogs!
Howard was Butler's answer. After Green Bay took its biggest lead, Butler unleashed a 13-2 scoring run. Senior Zach Hahn hit back-to-back three-pointers, the second off a Howard assist, and sophomore Andrew Smith followed a Bryquis Perine basket with a lay-up to make it 24-21. Howard then scored five straight points to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 lead. The Butler scoring leader added 10 more points in the final three minutes to help give Butler an eight-point halftime advantage.
The Bulldogs continued to roll early in the second half, stretching the margin to 21 points, 68-47, with just under 10 minutes remaining. But the final 10 minutes belonged to the Phoenix. Fueled by Fletcher and Perine, Green Bay steadily cut into Butler's lead. The Phoenix eventually closed to 78-75 on Baker's three-point field goal with 0:41 left. But that would be the last Green Bay basket of the night.
Senior Shelvin Mack finished with 14 points and Smith added a dozen. The Bulldogs, led by Howard, played even on the boards with Green Bay, the top rebounding team in the Horizon League. The win helped the Bulldogs keep pace with Cleveland State and Wright State in second place in the league standings, behind league-leading Valparaiso.
Baker posted a career-high 20 points for Green Bay and Fletcher wound up with 18, after scoring just three points in the first half. Perine added 11 for the Phoenix.
Butler will close out its current homestand on Sunday against Milwaukee, a team that beat the Bulldogs by 24 points earlier this month. The rematch will take place at 2 p.m. (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse.