Butler Falls In Overtime At Valparaiso, 85-79

AUDIO HIGHLIGHTS (1070 The Fan)

VALPARAISO, IND. -- Host Valparaiso hit five of seven shots, including two from beyond the three-point arc, and pulled away to an 85-79 victory over Butler in a key Horizon League showdown at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday, Jan. 29.  The win lifted the Crusaders into a share of first place in the league, while Butler slipped to fourth.

The Crusaders (16-6, 8-2 HL), who let an eight-point lead slip away in the final three-and-a-half minutes of regulation play, grabbed the lead in overtime on a lay-up by Matt Kenney and a three-point field goal by Ryan Broekhoff, and Butler (14-8, 6-4 HL) was left to play catch-up for the rest of the extra session.

The Bulldogs did cut the margin to two, 74-72, on a three-point field goal by sophomore Chase Stigall with just over two minutes remaining, but Valparaiso's Howard Little answered with a tough jumper in the lane and a desperation three-pointer that found the bottom of the net.

Freshman Jay Harris closed out the home team's scoring with six consecutive free throws.

"It was a back-and-forth game, a great game, a great environment.  A lot of guys made plays on both ends of the floor and Little's two plays were the two biggest," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.

Butler held the upper hand through the first half, leading by as many as eight points and taking a 31-26 advantage to the locker room at halftime.

That advantage was quickly erased at the start of the second half, when the Crusaders opened with five straight points to tie the game.  But the Bulldogs answered with a 9-0 run, including eight consecutive points by senior Zach Hahn, to take their biggest lead of the game at 40-31 with 15:50 remaining.

And that's when the Crusaders caught fire.  The home team connected on 12 of its final 19 shots (.632) in regulation, before shooting even better in overtime.  After hitting just one of their first 10 three-point field goal attempts, the Crusaders closed by cashing nine of 12 (.750) long-range shots!  Broekhoff, who missed his only three-point attempt in the first half, was four for five from three-point range after intermission.

"(Valparaiso) ran the same stuff in the second half, they just ran it better," noted Stevens.  "The bottom line is we missed on Broekhoff a bunch.  There was no reason we should have missed on some of those."

Broekhoff gave the Crusaders their biggest lead of the game at 66-58 with a three-point field goal at 3:29 on the final half.  But the Bulldogs stormed back with a 9-1 closing run.  Senior Shawn Vanzant sparked the run with five consecutive points and then junior Ronald Nored cut the margin to two with a single free throw.  Brandon Wood answered with a free throw for the Crusaders, before senior Matt Howard tied the game at 67-67 with a conventional three-point play with 30 seconds left.

Valparaiso's Cory Johnson missed a final lay-up attempt, sending the game into overtime.

Howard and Hahn led the Bulldogs with 17 points apiece, while Vanzant added 14.  Broekhoff, Kenney and Johnson each had 16 for the Crusaders, while Wood finished with 15.  The Bulldogs hit 13 three-point field goals in the game, while the Crusaders nailed 10.

Butler will continue its three-game road stretch with a trip to northern Ohio for a pair of games next weekend.  The Bulldogs will begin the trip at Youngstown State on Thursday, Feb. 3.