Freshmen Gordon Hayward and Shelvin Mack each scored 20 points and junior Willie Veasley added 13 to lead visiting Butler to an 87-75 victory over Bradley at Carver Arena in Peoria, Ill., Wednesday (Dec. 10). It was Butler's eighth straight win to open the 2008-09 season.
Butler put on an offensive clinic in the first half to take control of the game and then held off Bradley's comeback attempts in the second half. The 87 points matched Butler's season scoring high and were the most against a Division I opponent. The Bulldogs shot 59% in the first half, while scoring a season-high 44 points, and 54% for the game.
"I thought our offense tonight was as good as it's been," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game. "But (Bradley) kept coming and coming, and I never felt comfortable until the end."
Bradley (4-4), trailing by 13 points at halftime, rallied in the second half behind guard Eddren McCain and trimmed Butler's lead to five points on two occasions. Each time the Bulldogs responded with five unanswered points to take the margin back to double-digits.
"One thing this team has shown is that they don't get rattled," noted Stevens.
Hayward sparked the Bulldogs to a quick start in the game, scoring 17 points in the first 16 minutes. He gave Butler the lead for good with five consecutive points in the first two minutes of the contest, and he gave the Bulldogs their biggest lead of the first half, 36-21, with a three-point field goal at 4:16. The 6-8 swing player added three points in the second half for his career-high total.
Mack scored nine points in the first half and 11 more in the second half. He also led the Bulldogs with eight rebounds, and he added six assists. Veasley chipped in with a career-high 13 points, erasing his previous career-high of 12 points set first against Bradley last year.
The Bulldogs jumped in front with a 20-6 run to start the game. Hayward ignited the opening run with eight points and five other Bulldogs contributed to the start. The Braves closed to within 10 points in the final minute of the half, but junior Avery Jukes nailed a three-point field goal with 0:12 left to give Butler a 44-31 halftime lead.
The Braves rallied again in the second half and cut the lead to 57-52 on a layup by Taylor Brown with 10:35 left. But sophomore Zach Hahn responded with a three-point field goal and Veasley added a pair of free throws to put Butler back on top by ten points.
Bradley made one last run to cut Butler's lead to 62-57 on a layup by Dodie Dunson, but the Bulldogs answered with 11 straight points to take their biggest lead of the game, 73-57.
Butler out-rebounded the Braves, 38-28, behind Mack and freshman Ronald Nored, who grabbed a career-high six caroms. Nored also added a career-high seven assists, while matching his career scoring high with seven points. Hahn, Jukes and sophomore Matt Howard all finished with nine points.
McCain led the Braves with 18 points, Sam Maniscalco added 17 and Theron Wilson chipped in with 15.
The Bulldogs will close out their current four-game road stretch on Saturday, Dec. 13, at #21 Ohio State. That contest will start at 12 noon.