Dec. 3, 2005
Sophomore A. J. Graves scored a game-high 21 points, junior Brandon Crone added 16 and Butler used a suffocating defense to down previously unbeaten Ball State, 64-53, in a rivalry game at Worthen Arena in Muncie on Saturday (Dec. 3) evening. The victory was Butler's second consecutive and lifted the Bulldogs to 4-3 on the season. Ball State slipped to 2-1.
Butler, playing away from Hinkle Fieldhouse for the sixth time in seven games, put on a dominating defensive performance in the first 20 minutes of the contest. The Bulldogs limited Ball State to just five field goals on 29% shooting, while grabbing a 33-14 halftime lead. The Cardinals managed just four points in the final 10 minutes of the half.
"Our guys were really committed to defending and to defending with purpose," said Butler head coach Todd Lickliter after the victory. "I thought we really had an understanding of their personnel and an understanding of the priorities, and we played accordingly."
"It's a fun way to coach when you have a team that can prepare well and can execute your game plan."
Butler's offensive game plan developed slowly. Ball State jumped to a 5-2 lead in the first three minutes of the contest, and the Cardinal led 10-9 with just over 11 minutes left in the initial period. But the Bulldogs answered with a 13-0 scoring run to take control of the game for good.
Crone sparked the Bulldogs' decisive run with five points, while Graves and senior Bruce Horan each added a three-point field goal. Ball State stopped the run with a free throw by Charles Bass with 5:16 left in the half, but the Bulldogs closed by out-scoring Ball State, 11-3, over the final five minutes.
Ball State opted to come after the Bulldogs with a fullcourt press throughout the second half, but the Cardinals never came closer than 10 points.
Graves, who scored a career-high 29 points against Ball State a year ago, tallied 13 of his points after intermission including five from the charity stripe in the final 1:11. He also had three assists and one steal in 32 minutes of action. Crone hit six of eight shots from the field in the game and led the Bulldogs with six rebounds. Senior Avery Sheets added 13 points.
Butler struggled at the free throw line, hitting just 15 of 28 (.536) attempts, but the Bulldogs finished with a 27-26 rebounding advantage. It was the first time in seven games that the Bulldogs out-rebounded their opponent.
The Bulldogs will play their next four games in Indianapolis, beginning with a non-league game against Bradley in Hinkle Fieldhouse on Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 7 p.m.