November 14, 2009

Butler Slips Past Davidson In Season-Opener

PHOTO GALLERY

Sophomore Gordon Hayward scored 17 points and senior Willie Veasley added 15 to lead Butler to a 73-62 victory over visiting Davidson in the first game of the 2009-10 season for both teams at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, Nov. 14.  It was Butler’s fourth straight win in a season-opener.

The Bulldogs, ranked in the “Top 15” of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today national polls, had to overcome a 10-point deficit in the first half and didn’t gain control until the closing minutes of the final period.  Butler led by two points at halftime, 37-35, and by just three points with just over six minutes remaining.

“I dreaded this game for six months,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the win.  “And now that it’s over, I think it was probably a pretty good thing for us.”

Butler struggled to score through most of the first half and wound up trailing 33-23 with two and a half minutes remaining.  But Veasley sparked a 12-0 scoring run with a pair of three-point field goals to give Butler only its second lead of the half.  The Bulldogs carried that two-point advantage to the locker room at halftime.

“We had that group at the end of the first half that was really playing well,” added Stevens.  “They were covering for each other defensively.  We got into the passing lanes and got a couple tips, that got us started in transition.  And then we started moving the ball side to side better than we did in the first 15 minutes.  After that, I felt like we moved the ball much better and got better looks.”

Davidson didn’t fold., even after the Bulldogs opened the second half with five unanswered points to take a 42-35 lead.  The visiting Wildcats battled back and took a 58-56 lead on a three-point field goal by guard Brendan McKillop, the son of Davidson head coach Bob McKillop.

But Hayward tied the game with a lay-up at 9:20 and then gave the Bulldogs the lead for good with another lay-up just over two minutes later.  The 6-9 Butler guard-forward added six points in the final seven minutes to help Butler stretch the margin to double-figures.

Hayward hit five of nine shots in the game and was perfect on seven attempts from the free throw line.  He also led the Bulldogs with eight rebounds, though Davidson had a 31-27 rebounding advantage for the game.

Veasley hit three three-point field goals in the game, one off his career-high.  Junior Shawn Vanzant, getting his first collegiate start, added 10 points, nine of which came in Butler’s first half comeback, and junior Matt Howard finished with 10 points and four rebounds.

Ben Allison led Davidson with 13 points, while McKillop added 11.

The Bulldogs will play their next six games away from Indianapolis, beginning with a contest at Big Ten foe Northwestern on Wednesday, Nov. 18.