Bulldogs Fall In Horizon League Semifinals
VALPARAISO, IND. -- Top-seeded Valparaiso pulled away to a seven-point halftime lead and the added to that margin in the final 20 minutes to hand Butler a 65-46 setback in the semifinals of the Horizon League Tournament at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday, March 3. The loss ended Butler's string of six consecutive league championship game appearances.
The Crusaders (22-10), playing on their home floor after an eight-day rest, shot a crisp 54% for the game and out-rebounded Butler 39-22. The home squad, which won the Horizon League regular season title, hit five of nine shots from beyond the three-point arc in the final 20 minutes and maintained a double-digit lead through most of the second half.
Butler, playing its third game in five days, shot just 33% for the game, including just 27% in the second half. The 46 points were the Bulldogs' second-lowest output of the season.
"It was pretty simple. (Valparaiso) played really well, and we didn't," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game. "I thought we had a couple of guys who gave a really good effort and a couple of others who were fairly productive, but not nearly enough."
The Bulldogs (20-14) jumped to a 7-2 lead in the first three minutes of the contest, but Valparaiso used an 11-0 run midway through the first half to take control of the game. Forward Richie Edwards came off the bench with six points to fuel the run, and the Crusaders never looked back.
Butler cut the lead to 31-24 at halftime on a basket by sophomore Erik Fromm, but the Crusaders opened the second half with an 18-6 run to regain a comfortable advantage. Valparaiso led by as many as 21 late in the game.
Horizon League Player of the Year Ryan Broekhoff led the host squad with 19 points and 16 rebounds, and he picked up strong support from forward Kevin Van Wijk and guard Erik Buggs with 11 points apiece.
"The two fontline guys (Broekhoff & Van Wijk) really killed us again, and (Valparaiso) made timely shots," added the Butler coach.
Butler was led by sophomore Chrishawn Hopkins, who scored 18 points including five of the Bulldogs' first seven in the game. Fromm added 12 points and a team-high six rebounds in 21 minutes off the bench. Butler leading scorer Andrew Smith was held scoreless in 16 minutes of action.
Valparaiso will host Detroit in the league title game on Tuesday (March 6).
Butler's season may continue with a postseason bid, but the Bulldogs will have to wait a week to see what the possibilities might be.