Bulldogs Hold Off Valparaiso, 72-69

Feb. 19, 2005

Box Score

Junior Brandon Polk led four Bulldogs in double-figures with 19 points and freshman A. J. Graves hit eight free throws in the final minute to help Butler hang on to a 72-69 victory over Valparaiso in a non-league game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Feb. 19. The victory lifted the Bulldogs to 11-14 on the season, while Valparaiso fell to 14-13.

Polk played a key role in helping Butler build as much as a 13-point lead in the second half. He hit four of eight shots in each half, and he led the Bulldogs with eight rebounds. Graves helped the Bulldogs stay in front by hitting all eight of his free throws in the final 0:45. Sophomore Brandon Crone also hit a pair of charity tosses in the final minute, while Valparaiso was staging a late charge. Butler's final 10 points came from the free throw line.

"It was good to execute at the end," said Butler head coach Todd Lickliter after the contest. "We made good decisions down the stretch, and we got the ball in A.J.'s hands at the end. A. J. and Brandon (Crone) stepped up and made the free throws."

Butler looked to have a comfortable, 62-52, lead with just over two minutes remaining, but the Crusaders made things interesting out-scoring the Bulldogs, 17-10, in the final two minutes. Junior Ron Howard led the Crusaders' charge with nine points in the final two minutes, including a pair of three-point field goals in the final 0:14.

The Bulldogs only trailed twice in the game, at 2-0 and at 4-2. Guard Avery Sheets tied the game at 4-4 with a basket and then gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with a three-point field goal 50 seconds later.

Butler's biggest lead in the first half came at 21-13 on a three-point field goal by Crone, but the Crusaders battled back to trail by only three, 27-24, at halftime.

Valparaiso, playing at Butler for the first time in more than a decade, closed to within two points at 32-30 on a basket by Dan Oppland with 17:41 left. But the Bulldogs answered with an 11-2 run. Butler led by 13 points at 51-38 on a basket by Graves and again at 53-40 on a field goal by Polk.

Sheets finished with 17 points, including 12 in the second half, and four assists, while Graves added 15 points and three steals. Crone, who turned in an inspired performance at both ends of the floor, chipped in with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals. He had 10 points and four rebounds in the final 20 minutes.

Butler, the top free throw shooting team in the Horizon League, hit 16 of 18 attempts from the charity stripe, including 13 of 14 in the second half. The Bulldogs also had just eight turnovers in the contest.

Howard led Valparaiso with 20 points, while Oppland added 16. Center Kenny Harris contributed 14 points and six rebounds.

The win ran Butler's string of non-league wins at home to 24 in a row. Butler will return to Horizon League action on Wednesday, Feb. 23, with a game at Youngstown State.