Bulldogs Knock Off Wright State, 71-63
INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Playing without leading scorer and rebounder Matt Howard, Butler pulled together one of its best shooting performances of the season and handed visiting Wright State at 71-63 setback in a key Horizon League game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday (Feb. 10). The win was Butler's third straight and lifted the Bulldogs to 17-9 on the season and 9-5 in league play.
The Bulldogs were informed early on Thursday that Howard, the Horizon League's second-leading scorer and third-leading rebounder, would not be available to play against Wright State. Howard suffered a deep cut about his right eye and a mile concussion in Butler's victory over UIC on Monday (Feb. 7).
With Howard watching from the bench, junior guard Shelvin Mack stepped up with a game-high 20 points, while senior Shawn Vanzant and sophomore Andrew Smith each added 15. The Bulldogs shot 57% as a team in the game, including 73% in the first half!
"I was really proud of our guys for coming together and playing under really difficult circumstances with limited preparation," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game.
The Bulldogs adjusted their lineup and started four guards - Mack, Vanzant, junior Ronald Nored and sophomore Chase Stigall - against the Raiders. That foursome, along with Smith, helped Butler jump to an early 10-point lead, 15-5. Butler's guards accounted for 11 of the first 15 points.
"We just played, I don't want to call it "small ball" but more like "speed ball," noted Stevens. "The only time we had a traditional lineup in, (Wright State) actually went on a little bit of a run."
The Raiders (17-10, 10-5 HL), who entered the game in a tie for second place in the league standings, did battle back from Butler's early advantage and actually took a lead, 29-26, with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. But the Bulldogs scored the final six points of the initial period to take a 39-34 halftime lead. Butler hit 16 of 22 shots in the first half, but the Raiders countered by connecting on seven of 13 (.538) three-point field goal attempts.
Butler maintained the upper hand throughout the second half, but Wright State closed the margin to 64-60 on a lay-up by Cole Darling with 1:30 remaining. But the Bulldogs held on by hitting seven of eight free throws in the final minute.
The Bulldogs wound up hitting 26 of 46 shots in the win, their second-best shooting performance this season. Smith was perfect on six field goal attempts, while Nored hit four of six attempts. Senior Zach Hahn came off the bench and connected on three of five shots, including three of four from beyond the three-point arc.
Vaughn Duggins led the Raiders with 19 points, while Cooper Land came off the bench and hit four three-point field goals and finished with 12 points.
Butler will wrap-up its current three-game homestand on Saturday against Detroit. That contest will start at 8 p.m (ET) at Hinkle Fieldhouse.