Ball State Edges Butler, 58-55
MUNCIE, IND. -- Sophomore Khyle Marshall (right) sparked a strong Butler comeback in the final 20 minutes, but host Ball State held on and pulled out a 58-55 victory at Worthen Arena on Saturday, Dec. 10. The setback was Butler's third straight, matching the Bulldogs' longest skid in seven seasons.
Marshall scored 13 of his career-high 21 points in the final 20 minutes and helped the Bulldogs erase an early 13-point deficit. His final basket with 1:20 remaining tied the game at 54-54 and gave the Bulldogs a chance to end Ball State's five-game winning streak.
But the Cardinals answered with a field goal by Jarrod Jones with 0:48 left to regain the lead, and then followed a missed Butler shot and two turnovers by the Bulldogs with a pair of free throws by guard Randy Davis. Butler's Ronald Nored closed the scoring with a free throw with under a second remaining.
Butler (4-6) wound up out-scoring the Cardinals, 31-26, in the second half, but it wasn't enough to overcome Ball State's start.
"The first 15 minutes killed us," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "That's the end-all, be-all. We can overanalyze it to death. At the end we had the ball at the rim a couple of times and we didn't finish, but the first 15 minutes killed us."
Ball State (6-2) scored the first eight points of the game, and the Bulldogs found themselves in a position of playing catch-up for the rest of the game. Led by Jones, who finished with a team-high 21 points, the home team stretched its margin to 21-8 midway through the first period and led 32-24 at halftime.
The Bulldogs shot just 26% from the field in the first half, including just 15% (2-13) from beyond the three-point arc.
Butler's marksmanship improved slightly in the second half, thanks in part to Marshall, who wound up hitting nine of 15 shots in the game. But the Bulldogs continued to struggle from the three-point arc, hitting just one of nine attempts.
"I thought we rushed (the three-point shots), but that was after we got down," noted Stevens. "That's two games in a row that we haven't shot it well. The good news is we get a chance now to get in the gym to practice."
The game was tied three times in the final 10 minutes, but the Bulldogs weren't able to take a lead.
Marshall was the lone player to score in double-figures for Butler. He also topped the Bulldogs with a career-best 16 rebounds in 26 minutes of action. Junior Andrew Smith and freshman Jackson Aldridge each added eight points for the Bulldogs.
Butler's three-game losing skid is the team's longest since 2004-05. The Bulldogs also dropped three straight last year, before rolling off a 14-game winning streak.
The Bulldogs will have a week off for final exams before returning to action against Purdue in the Close The Gap Crossroads Classic on Saturday, Dec. 17. That game, the first of a doubleheader at Conseco Fieldhouse, is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.