Second Half Lifts Bulldogs Over Savannah State

INDIANAPOLIS, IND. -- Butler played good defense in the first half against visiting Savannah State.  Then the Bulldogs turned it up a notch over the final 20 minutes and pulled away from the visiting Tigers, 57-42, in a Hoosier Invitational game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Monday, Nov. 21.

The Bulldogs (2-2), who trailed 20-17 at halftime, held Savannah State to just six points in the first 14 minutes of the final period while building a 40-26 advantage.  The Tigers, who hit just three of their first 13 shots in the second half, needed 10 points in the final two-and-a-half minutes to break 40 for the game.

"Credit Savannah State.  They took us out of a little bit of a rhythm early on by holding the ball," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens after the game. "We usually don't extend our (defense), so they could start running their stuff at 20 or 15 which they did until we went to the 1-3-1 and extended the floor a little bit more."

The Bulldogs' 1-3-1 defense helped force the Tigers into 13 turnovers in the second half.  It also helped limit Savannah State to 33% (7-21) shooting over the final 20 minutes.

After scoring just 17 points in the first half on 33% shooting from the floor and 17% shooting from the free throw line, Butler received a lift off the bench from a pair of freshmen, Jackson Aldridge (right) and Roosevelt Jones, in the final period. Both players scored eight points in the second half, and both finished with a career-high 10 points for the game.  Both also contributed a pair of steals to Butler's defensive effort.

"Jackson and Rose have good savvy," noted Stevens. "They understand how to play.  They get hands on the ball.  They read the passer's eyes, which is a unique trait for a defender.  Roosevelt has a really unique ability to get his hands on the ball.  He's got that ability to create a turnover or create a fumbled basketball."

"Jackson did a great job for really never having played the wing on the 1-3-1.  He did a really good job today in creating some offense for us."

The Tigers (1-4) used a deliberate offense in the first half to grab the advantage.  The visitors scored the first four points of the game, built the lead to as many as six points, 18-12, midway through the initial period and took a three-point lead to the locker room at halftime.

Butler tied the game in the first minute of the second half on a three-point field goal by junior Chase Stigall, and the Bulldogs eventually took their first lead at 24-23 on a basket by Aldridge.  The shot by Aldridge ignited an 8-0 Butler run that put the Bulldogs in front for good.

A tip-in by Jones with 9:37 remaining gave Butler a 10-point lead, 36-26, and the Bulldogs led by double-digits for the rest of the game.  Butler took its biggest lead at 57-38 on a pair of free throws by Aldridge in the closing minute.

Junior Andrew Smith led four Butler players in double-figures with 11 points.  Stigall joined Aldridge and Jones with 10 points.  Jones and freshman Kameron Woods each finished with a team-high six rebounds.  Senior co-captain Ronald Nored finished with seven points and five assists, and he sparked Butler's defense with a game-high four steals.

Preston Blackmon topped Savannah State with 13 points.

The Bulldogs will continue play in the Hoosier Invitational with a home game against Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, Nov. 23.  Butler will finish the five-team event with a game at Indiana on Sunday, Nov. 27.

(Photos by Zach Bollinger)