Butler Escapes With One-Point Win At Loyola

Senior Willie Veasley calmly sank the second of two free throws with 0:34 left in the game to lift Butler to a 48-47 victory over host Loyola in a tightly-contested Horizon League game on Thursday, Jan. 21.  The victory, Butler’s seventh in a row, boosted the Bulldogs to 15-4 on the season and 8-0 in league action.

Veasley’s clutch free throw gave Butler the lead, but the Bulldogs had two survive two potential game-winning shots in the closing seconds.  Loyola, playing for the final shot, turned the ball over with eight seconds left.  But on the ensuing in-bounds play, Butler’s Shelvin Mack stepped on the sideline with 0:05 left.

Loyola’s Terrance Hill, who had tied the game at 47-47 with a three-point field goal at 1:43, missed a three-point attempt with three seconds left and teammate Jordan Hicks missed a tip-in attempt at the final buzzer sounded.

“It was an unbelievably hard-fought game,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens after the game.  “The easy answer is that neither team could buy a shot, but from a coaching standpoint it was two teams playing terrific defense.”

The Ramblers (12-6, 3-5 Horizon League), playing in front of 4,372 fans in the Joseph J. Gentile Center, trailed for the final 11 minutes of the first half and for the first 13 minutes of the second half until Hill tied the game at 43-43 with a three-point field goal with 7:07 remaining.  Butler went back on top by four points on a three-point field goal by Gordon Hayward and a free throw by Ronald Nored, before Hill tied the game again.

Veasley slashed to the basket on Butler’s final possession and was fouled on his shot attempt by Loyola’s Walt Gibler.  Shooting into the Loyola student section, Veasley missed the first free throw, but then regrouped to hit the game winner.

“When I got up there, I tried not to focus on the noise and the arms in the background,” said Veasley of his final trip to the free throw line.  “They had a great turnout tonight.  It was about the loudest I’ve heard a gym this year.”

Butler won the game despite shooting just 35.7% from the field and just 15% (3-20) from beyond the three-point arc.  The Bulldogs were out-rebounded, 42-29, and out-scored, 14-7, on second chance points.  Butler did record nine steals, and the Bulldogs did capitalize with a 12-2 advantage in points off turnovers.

“I’m proud of our effort.  I’m really proud of our effort.  It’s hard to win a game like that when things aren’t going your way,” added Stevens.

Hayward and Mack led the Bulldogs in scoring with 12 points apiece, while Veasley added seven.  Gibler led all scorers with 14 points, while Hill added 12.

The victory was the 100th career win for Veasley and senior Nick Rodgers.  Only four other players in Butler history (Joel Cornette, Darnell Archey, Lewis Curry and Mike Moore) had 100 career wins!

Butler will remain in Chicago for a game on Saturday, Jan. 23, against UIC.  That contest at the UIC Pavilion is slated for 2 p.m. (ET) and will be the Horizon League Network Game of the Week.