January 14, 2010

Bulldogs Overtake Cleveland State In Second Half

Butler overcame a slow start with a big finish to down visiting Cleveland State, 64-55, in a key Horizon League game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Thursday, Jan. 14.  The hard-fought victory, Butler’s fifth in a row, lifted the Bulldogs to 13-4 on the season and 6-0 in the Horizon League.

The Bulldogs trailed by as many as nine points in the first half of the game that matched the two finalists from last year’s Horizon League Tournament.  But 61% shooting in the second half helped Butler out-score the visitors and defending tournament champs, 34-24, in the final 20 minutes.

“Thankfully, there’s two halves in a basketball game,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens after the game.  “I thought we were out-played in the first half, and I thought we played pretty well in the second.”

Senior Willie Veasley and sophomore Ronald Nored sparked Butler’s second half effort against the Vikings.  Veasley scored nine of his team-high 16 points in the final period, while Nored had eight of his 11 tallies.  Both players tied their career-highs for scoring, ironically both previously set against Cleveland State.

Butler hit 11 of 18 shots in the second half, including three of five from beyond the three-point arc, and nine of 11 attempts from the free throw line.  The sharp-shooting was needed to off-set the hot shooting performance of Cleveland State’s Jeremy Montgomery, who hit six of nine three-point field goals and finished with a game-high 22 points.

Montgomery had solid support from guards Trevon Harmon, who finished with 12 points, and Norris Cole, who added 11 for the Vikings (7-11, 3-3 Horizon League).

“They’re a really difficult team to guard, because any of those three guys can really get going, and Montgomery obviously was the one that got going tonight,” added Stevens.

Harmon broke a 9-9 tie with a lay-up, igniting a 13-4 Cleveland State run that gave the visitors a nine point lead midway through the first half.  The margin remained nine with three minutes left in the half, when Butler answered with an 8-0 run to close to within one point at halftime.

“To be down one at halftime was fortunate, and I thought we came out with the right approach in the second half,” stated Stevens.  “We defended better, I thought, and that led to some opportunities in transition where we scored.  And then we were moving the ball pretty well offensively and getting fairly decent looks.”

Veasley hit a three-point field goal to tie the game at 38-38 with 15:14 remaining and junior Matt Howard followed with a lay-up to give the Bulldogs the lead for good.  Nored gave Butler an eight-point lead, 56-48, with a three-point field goal at 6:36, and sophomore Shelvin Mack eventually stretched the margin to 10 points, 58-48, with a pair of free throws with 3:43 left.

Mack, who kept the Bulldogs in the game in the first half with 11 points, finished the game with 15 tallies.  Sophomore Gordon Hayward, who was hospitalized earlier in the day with an upper respiratory infection, finished with eight points, snapping a streak of 17 consecutive games in double-figures.

Butler will have a short turnaround before returning to the court to host Youngstown State on Saturday, Jan. 16., at 2 p.m.