Butler looked to a pair of post players for an offensive spark and utilized a stingy second-half defensive effort to hold off visiting Ball State and record a 64-55 victory in a state rivalry game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Wednesday (Nov. 19). The win was Butler's second straight to open the year, while Ball State fell to 1-1 on the young season.
Sophomore Matt Howard led the Bulldogs with 15 points and six rebounds, and he drew enough attention inside to open up Butler's perimeter attack. His teammates responded with nine three-point field goals, including three from freshman Garrett Butcher who came off the bench and led a decisive first half rally.
The Bulldogs, who trailed 10-4 early in the contest, broke things open with a 24-6 run midway through the first half. Butcher hit all three of his three-pointers during the run, helping Butler build a 28-16 advantage.
Ball State did rally to cut the margin to two, 31-29, by halftime, but the Bulldogs answered with the first eight points of the second half to regain a double-digit lead.
"It wasn't a perfect night, but I am proud of the way we responded to some adversity," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the win. "Anytime you can win against a state school and a program that's well-coached like that, you feel good."
The Bulldogs, who struggled to find their collective shooting touch in the second half, used a gritty defensive effort in the final 20 minutes to keep Ball State in check. The visitors cut Butler's lead to eight on two occasions, but never got closer.
Howard was the lone Butler player to score in double figures. Butcher and freshman Gordon Hayward each scored nine points and junior Willie Veasley added seven. Nine of the 10 Butler players who saw action in the game cracked the scoring column. Ball State's Anthony Newell led all players with 17 points, and he added 11 rebounds, while teammate Jarrod Jones chipped in with 14 points and 12 rebounds.
Butcher, who played just two scoreless minutes in Butler's season-opening victory at Drake, drew special praise from his coach.
"He did a great job. You talk about being ready. He spent a lot of time after practice shooting and it seemed like he made every shot this week, so it wasn't a surprise when they went down in the game," noted Stevens.
Butler will continue its homestand on Saturday, Nov. 22, with a 2 p.m. (ET) non-league game against first-time foe IU-South Bend.