Butler Clinches a Share of Fourth Consecutive League Title
Matt Howard scored a game-high 20 points and Butler won its third game in five days to clinch at least a share of its fourth consecutive Horizon League regular season title. The Bulldogs came back in the second half to beat Loyola 62-47 at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday to improve to 14-0 in Horizon League play. "It's a big deal," said Butler Head Coach Brad Stevens. "It's a really big deal." The Bulldogs have now won 13 games in a row matching the nation's second longest active winning streak.
Butler opened the game hitting just two of its first 12 shots and fell behind quickly to Loyola. The Bulldogs trailed the entire first half after Loyola went up 3-2 early on. "You can't come out like that, "said junior forward Matt Howard. "If we're going to keep progressing it's going to take 40 minutes of basketball." The Bulldogs progressed as the game went and took over the lead with 17 minutes remaining and never looked back.
Despite some early foul trouble, Howard still managed 11 points in the first half to keep the Bulldogs close. He had nine more points in the final period when Butler took control. Howard also added four rebounds and two assists on the night. "He means a lot to the team all the time," said Stevens when asked about the importance of Howard against Loyola. "And he was great tonight."
Willie Veasley, still hot from Saturday, went five for seven, including two for three from behind the arc to total 12 points. Veasley also led both teams in rebounding with eight. Sophomore forward Gordon Hayward only had eight points, but he recorded seven rebounds, three assists, a steal and a block.
What may have been the shot of the game came from an unlikely source, red-shirt freshman Chase Stigall. With the Bulldogs trailing 15-8, Stigall hit a crucial three pointer with seven minutes remaining in the first half. "Biggest shot of the night was Chase hitting that three in the corner because it got us going," said Stevens.
Zach Hahn shot two of three on three pointers to add six points off the bench. In addition, Garret Butcher stepped in for Howard and scored two points and grabbed two rebounds in six pivotal minutes in the first half.
Next up for Bulldogs is a weekend trip to Ohio. The Bulldogs will open at Youngstown State on Thursday before taking on the Horizon League's second place team, Cleveland State, on Saturday. When asked about the possibility of the team getting complacent in the next few weeks Howard said, "This team is looking for more than where we are at right now."