Bulldogs Hold Off Loyola, 65-63

CHICAGO, ILL. -- Senior Zach Hahn hit a pair of clutch free throws with seven seconds remaining and Butler handed host Loyola its first 2010-11 loss, 65-63, in the Horizon League opener for both teams at the Joseph J. Gentile Center on Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Hahn’s free throws came with the Bulldogs clinging to a one-point lead in the closing moments.  He stepped to the line front of the near-capacity crowd of 3,758 and calmly sunk both free throws to give the Bulldogs a three-point advantage.

Junior Shelvin Mack then fouled Loyola’s Courtney Stanley with thee seconds left, and the Ramblers’ point-guard made one of two charity attempts.  The Bulldogs were able to get the ball inbounds to center Andrew Smith, who ran out the remaining seconds.

“Anybody who’s been around this league long enough knows that this was a heck of a win to start off league play, and I’m proud of our guys,” said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game.

The Bulldogs (4-2), who led by as many as 11 points in the second half, had to hold off a late charge by the Ramblers, who entered the game with a perfect 7-0 record.  With guard Geoff McCammon leading the charge, Loyola unleashed a 12-3 run to trim Butler’s 60-49 advantage to 63-62.  Loyola’s Andy Polka intentionally fouled Hahn, setting up the final sequence.

“Every time we’ve played Loyola since I’ve been here, it’s been a tough game,” said Butler senior forward Matt Howard.  “You have to be on top of your game to beat them.”

Butler, coming off an overtime loss at home to Evansville, trailed just once in the game at 4-2.  Hahn hit the first of his three three-point field goals in the game to push the Bulldogs in front for good.

Howard helped lead Butler to a 38-28 halftime lead with 10 points in the first 20 minutes.  The Bulldogs shot 62% from the field in the initial period, including 56% from beyond the three-point arc.

Hahn and Howard both finished with 15 points.  Mack added nine, as did freshman Khyle Marshall in a nine-minute stint off the bench.  McCammon topped the Ramblers with 14 points, while senior Andy Polka added 12.

The win was Butler’s 21st consecutive Horizon League regular season victory, matching the league record that the Bulldogs shared with Green Bay.  But Stevens wasn’t thinking about the record.

“It’s one in a row for this team,” said the Butler coach.

The Bulldogs will continue with their three-game road stretch with a nationally-televised game against No. 1-ranked Duke  at the IZOD Center in East Rutherford, N.J., on Saturday, Dec. 4.  The rematch of last year’s national championship game will begin at 3:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN.