Big Second Half Lifts Butler Past Evansville, 75-59
Freshman Shelvin Mack scored a game-high 18 points, including 13 in the second half to lead Butler to a 75-59 victory over visiting Evansville in a non-league contest at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Nov. 29). The win lifted Butler to 5-0 on the season and left the Bulldogs as the lone unbeaten Division I team in Indiana.
Mack sparked a big second half effort by the Bulldogs that stretched a five-point halftime lead, 35-30, to as many as 23 points, 72-49, late in the game. The 6-3 guard from Lexington, Ky., hit six of seven shots from the field in the final 20 minutes. He scored nine of Butler's first 14 points after intermission to help the Bulldogs build a double-digit lead.
The quick start in the final period left Evansville (3-1) playing catch-up for the rest of the contest. Butler wound up out-scoring the Aces, 40-29, in the second half.
"Obviously, we played our best half of basketball and that contributed to the win," said head coach Brad Stevens after the contest. "I thought we played on both ends of the floor."
Butler hit 17 of 31 shots (.548) in the second half and limited Evansville to 41% shooting and 29 points. The Bulldogs held the visitors to nine points in the first nine minutes of the final period while stretching the lead to 52-39.
Stevens was quick to cite the defensive effort put forth by the entire Butler squad, but in particular on Evansville's two scoring leaders Shy Ely and Jason Holsinger.
"We tried to guard Holsinger and Ely as hard as we could, which is really hard to do when you consider they're both among the top four players in the Missouri Valley Conference in career scoring," noted Stevens. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job on them."
Ely, who was averaging 16.3 points coming into the game, finished with 12 points, while Holsinger, boasting an 11.3 average, wound up with eight. The two Aces' aces combined for six point in the second half.
The Bulldogs, plagued by early foul trouble, battled to maintain a slim lead on Evansville through the first ten minutes of the game. A lay-up by junior Avery Jukes and a follow-up dunk by freshman Garrett Butcher at 9:19 gave Butler a six point lead, 21-15, and the Bulldogs maintained a four-six point lead for the rest of the half.
Mack was one of four Bulldogs who finished with double-figures in points. Sophomore Zach Hahn, who came off the bench and hit four three-point field goals, and freshman Gordon Hayward each tallied 12 points, while sophomore Matt Howard added 11 points, a team-high five rebounds and four blocked shots. The Bulldogs had eight blocked shot as a team.
The game, which left Butler with a 10-0 record in its last ten games against Indiana opponents, was the final pre-conference test for the Bulldogs. Butler begins Horizon League play on Thursday, Dec, 4, at league preseason favorite, Cleveland State.