January 30, 2009

No. 13 Bulldogs Hold Off Tenacious Crusaders, 59-51

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Gordon Hayward scored 18 points, Willie Veasley had 13 and No. 13 Butler needed a spurt in the final six minutes to hold off Valparaiso 59-51 on Friday night.

Butler (19-1, 10-0 Horizon League) won its 11th in a row and matched the conference record with its 21st consecutive victory against a league foe. The Bulldogs will try to break the record Monday at Green Bay, which holds the mark.

Valparaiso (6-16, 3-8) was led by Urule Igbavboa with 15 points and Logan Jones with 10 but couldn't avoid losing its seventh straight to Butler. The Crusaders have lost seven of nine overall.

It was a strange game for the Bulldogs, who committed more turnovers in the first half (12) than they average per game (11.7) and finished with 18--just one off their season-high.

They also struggled with shooting, making only 17-of-45 shots, and two of their top scorers--Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack spent much of the second half in foul trouble.

Yet Butler still found a way win its 15th straight at Hinkle Fieldhouse.

Valparaiso's inability to take advantage of Butler's rocky first half was costly.

After getting within 24-22 at the half, Hayward picked off two passes in the first two minutes of the second half, scoring on a putback and a layup, and Howard followed that with a tip-in to give Butler a 30-22 lead with 17:21 to go.

Eventually, the Crusaders Valparaiso rallied. Jones and Igbavboa hit consecutive 3s to tie it at 37, and Jones made two free throws with 6:05 left to give Valparaiso its first lead at 43-41.

That's when the Bulldogs turned things around, outscoring Valpo 18-8 the rest of the way. Veasley hit a 5-foot runner to tie it, Ronald Nored made one free throw to retake the lead before Veasley made two free throws and a post-up layup to give Butler a 48-43 lead with 3:43 left.

Howard followed that with a three-point play, and just when it seemed the Bulldogs were about to pull away, Butler made a mistake. Nored fouled Jake Diebler on a 3, turning it into a four-point play and getting the Crusaders within 52-50.

But Nored made amends by hitting two free throws to turn it into a two-possession game and the Bulldogs went 5-for-8 at the line in the final 52 seconds to seal the win.