February 26, 2011

Butler Clinches Record Fifth Straight League Title

Butler 63 Loyola 56 February 26, 2011

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INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Junior Shelvin Mack scored a game-high 18 points and Butler rallied in the absence of head coach Brad Stevens to defeat Loyola, 63-56, in a key Horizon League game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday.  The win, Butler's seventh straight, gave the Bulldogs a share of a league-record fifth straight Horizon League title.

Stevens, who was bothered by an eye condition early on Saturday, left the court after the fourth media time-out of the first half and did not return.  He was examined at the office of Dr. John Abrams, Butler's team eye doctor and was found to be suffering from corneal edema.  His condition is not expected to be long term.

In Stevens' absence, Associate Head Coach Matthew Stevens stepped in and helped guide the Bulldogs to their come-from-behind victory in front of a sellout crowd of 10,000.  The win lifted Butler to 21-9 on the season and 13-5 in the Horizon League.  The title, which Butler will share with Milwaukee and Cleveland State, was the Bulldogs' 9th in 12 years.

"Brad gave me a little bit of prep before the game and said that his eye was bothering him.  He told me to be prepared, that we might have to make a change," Graves said after the game.  "I'm sure this victory is going to make him feel a lot better."

The Bulldogs, who trailed for much of the first half, used a 13-3 run in the final three minutes of the opening period to take a 32-26 halftime lead.  Trailing 23-19, senior forward Matt Howard started the Butler run with a three-point field goal, and Mack followed with his third three-pointer of the first period.  Loyola's Geoff McCammon answered with his own three-point field goal, but the Bulldogs closed the half with back-to-back lay-ups by junior Ronald Nored and Mack's fourth three-pointer.

Loyola (16-14, 7-11 HL) did cut the margin to two points, 34-32, early in the second half, but sophomore Chase Stigall hit a three-point field goal to ignite a 7-0 Butler run and the Ramblers never got closer than four points the rest of the game.

"In a game like this that was back-and-forth, it came down to getting extra shots and extra loose balls, and (our) guys did a tremendous job," added Graves.

Butler finished with 11 offensive rebounds in the game, led by Howard with four.  The Bulldogs also came up with seven steals and forced Loyola into 14 turnovers, while committing a season-low five miscues.

Loyola, coming off an upset of Valparaiso on Thursday, jumped to a four-point lead in the first minute of the game and led by as many as five points, 21-16, before the Bulldogs mounted their comeback.

Mack scored 14 of his points in the first half, including four of six from beyond the three-point arc.  Senior Shawn Vanzant and Stigall each added 10 points for the Bulldogs, with all 10 of Stigall's points coming in the final period.  Terrence Hill led the Ramblers with 14, while McCammon added 10.

Sophomore Andrew Smith pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds to lead both teams, while Howard, who finished with nine points, added seven caroms.

After the game, Butler honored its five seniors, Howard, Vanzant, Zach Hahn, Grant Leiendecker and Alex Anglin.  The five are the second all-time winningest class in Butler basketball history with 110 career victories.  They have been part of four straight Horizon League regular season championships.

Butler will be the No. 2 seed in the upcoming Horizon League Tournament, which will be hosted by Milwaukee, March 4-8.  The Bulldogs will begin tournament play on Saturday, March 5, at 6 p.m. (ET).