Butler Holds Off Wright State, 77-65

Butler Holds Off Wright State, 77-65

Sophomore Shelvin Mack sparked Butler to a big first half lead and teammate Gordon Hayward the Bulldogs pad the margin in the second half of a 77-65 victory over Wright State in Fairborn, Ohio, on Friday, Jan. 8.  The victory lifted Butler to 11-4 on the season and kept the Bulldogs unbeaten (4-0) in Horizon League play.

Mack scored 15 of his game-high 21 points in the first 20 minutes to help Butler jump to a 37-26 advantage in front of a capacity crowd at Wright State’s Nutter Center.  He hit five of eight shots in the first half, including three of six from beyond the three-point arc.  His three-point field goal with 11:11 left in the first half broke a 9-9 tie and gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.

Hayward contributed 16 of his 20 points in the final period.  He cashed 11 of 12 shots from the free throw line in the second half, including eight of eight in the final six and a half minutes to help keep the Bulldogs in front.  The 6-9 guard attempted a season-low five shots (hitting three) in the game, but hit a career-high 13 of 14 from the charity stripe.

“I thought we played well, and we had to play well to come in here and beat this team,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said after the game.

“When you shoot 51% and make all but one of your foul shots, you usually have a good night,” added the Butler coach.

Butler jumped in front at the start on a three-point field goal by Willie Veasley just over 40 seconds in the game.  The contest was tied twice in the first eight minutes and Wright State (10-6, 3-2 Horizon League) led once at 9-7.

The Raiders trailed by just two points, 19-17, when Butler unleashed a 12-0 run to push the margin to double-digits.  Veasley started the run with a three-point field goal, and sophomore Ronald Nored followed with a jump shot and a pair of free throws.  Hayward his a pair of free throws and Mack finished the run with a three-point shot.

“Our defense really keyed our offense (during the first half run),” said Stevens.

The Bulldogs pushed the margin to as many as 15 points midway through the second half, but the Raiders didn’t fold.  Switching to a zone defense, Wright State mounted a charge that cut Butler’s lead down to five points, 62-57, with just under five minutes remaining.

But junior Zach Hahn, who came off the bench with a team-high 17 points at Wright State a year ago, stabilized the Bulldogs with a long three-point field goal to push the lead back to eight points, and Butler was able to hold on by hitting eight of eight free throws in the final 3:38.

Veasley finished with 12 points, while junior Matt Howard added 10.  Todd Brown led the Raiders with 18 points, while Cory Cooperwood added 15.

The Bulldogs hit 23 of 45 (.511) shots in the game, including eight of 16 from beyond the three-point arc, and 23 of 24 shots from the free throw line.  Butler, led by Hayward (9), had a 31-18 advantage on the boards.

Butler’s road trip continues with another challenging test at Detroit on Sunday, Jan. 10, at 1 p.m.  The Titans (11-5, 4-1 Horizon League) are just a half game behind the Bulldogs in the league standings.  The game will be televised on Fox Sports Indiana.