January 7, 2011

Butler Rolls Over Cleveland State, 79-56

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Sophomore Andrew Smith made the most of his first career appearance against Cleveland State, finishing with his first career double-double and leading Butler to a convincing, 79-56, victory over the league-leading Vikings at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Friday, Jan. 7.  The win helped lift the Bulldogs into a four-way tie for second place in the Horizon League.

Smith, who didn’t play in either of Butler’s victories over Cleveland State a year ago, put on a dominant performance, particularly in the second half, against the Vikings, who entered the game with a lofty 15-1 record and an unbeaten 4-0 league mark.  The 6-11 Butler forward scored 17 of his career-high 22 points after intermission and grabbed six of his career-high 10 rebounds in the final period.  He hit seven of nine shots from the floor and all eight of his free throw attempts in 24 minutes of action.

“(Cleveland State’s) bigs helped off a lot and our guards did a really good job of penetrating, and they got me the ball a lot,”  said Smith, who led the Bulldogs in scoring for the first time in his young career.  “I was able to get some offensive rebounds and make some shots.”

Butler (11-5, 3-1 Horizon League), coming off a 24-point loss at Milwaukee on Monday (Jan. 3), wasted little time jumping on the first place Vikings.  Senior Matt Howard scored the first basket of the game and, after Cleveland State tied the game at 2-2, the Bulldogs ran off six straight points to take an eight point lead.

That lead reached double-figures at 14-4 on a lay-up by freshman Khyle Marshall just over six minutes into the contest and stretched to 22 points, 40-18, on a lay-up by junior Ronald Nored with 1:25 left in the half.  Butler, playing without starting guard Zach Hahn, who was sidelined with the flu, led 42-23 at halftime.

“I thought we did a really nice job of defending as a team and attacking as a team,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.  “You have to handle their initial wave in order to attack them appropriately, and I thought our guards did a great job of that and our bigs did a great job of finishing.”

Cleveland State (15-2, 4-1 HL) never got closer than 17 points in the final 20 minutes.  The Bulldogs led by 20 or more points for the final 10 minutes, with the biggest lead coming at 77-51 with three-and-a-half minutes remaining.

Smith had plenty of scoring help.  Howard finished with 17 points, six rebounds and three steals, while Nored chipped in with 13 points, eight rebounds and three assists.  Marshall matched his career-high with 11 points.

Senior Norris Cole led the Vikings with 26 points and 10 rebounds.

The victory was win No. 100 for Stevens and Butler’s seniors.  The Bulldogs stand at 100-20 since 2007-08, Stevens’ first year.

Butler won’t have much time to savor the victory over Cleveland State.  The Bulldogs will be back in action at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Sunday, Jan. 9, against Youngstown State.  That contest is scheduled for 2 p.m.