DAYTON, Ohio – Brad Stevens has said behind closed doors that the Butler men's basketball team would at some point win a game on a 3-pointer by Andrew Smith. The Bulldogs actually needed two treys by the junior center to edge Wright State 63-62 Friday night at the Nutter Center.
A back-and-forth game for all 40 minutes, the ending was a frantic mix of clutch outside shots and free throws by both teams. The game, like most in recent years between the two schools, was a close, defensive battle. Neither team ever led by more than four points.
"It was a really good basketball game," Stevens said. "Wright State is really good and they'll be a force in the league all the way through. It's always good to get a win this early in the season, but Billy (Donlon) and I both know that there's so much more season to go."
With Wright State leading 57-54 in the final minutes, Smith buried a 3-pointer to tie the game. After a pair of free throws by Wright State star guard Julius Mays made it 59-57, Smith again hit a trey to give the Bulldogs a 60-59 lead. Moments later, senior Ronald Nored would step to the foul line with 30.5 seconds left in the game. At that point, BU was 5-for-12 at the free throw line on the night. Nored, like he has so many times, knocked down both free throws to give the Bulldogs a 62-59 lead.
"To me, it's a no-brainer to miss that," Stevens explained. "Just don't foul on the rebound. If they get it, they get it. We aren't in that situation often, but we need to be better in that situation."
On the next possession, Wright State's John Balwigaire was awarded three free throws when an official ruled he was fouled on a 3-point attempt. Balwigaire made all 3 foul shots with 21.0 seconds left to tie the game 62-62.
On Butler's last possession, Nored drove the lane and was fouled just as he was dishing to Marshall for an easy dunk. Nored made the first foul shot and then intentionally missed the second and dove for a rebound. He was called for a lane violation, giving Wright State 2.7 seconds to go the length of the court. As the final buzzer sounded, May missed a running shot at the buzzer and the Bulldogs breathed a sigh of relief.
Smith led Butler with 19 points, including 13 in the second half. Sophomore Khyle Marshall added 14 points on 7-for-8 shooting. Mays posted game highs in points (24) and rebounds (7).
The Bulldogs were very efficient offensively when avoiding turnovers. BU shot 56.5 percent, including 23-for-30 on 2-pointers, and racked up a 38-20 scoring advantage in the paint. Butler shot 62.5 percent in the second half. The efficient inside scoring negated 21 Butler turnovers.
Butler shot 50 percent in a first half that saw eight lead changes and six ties. The two teams combined for 23 turnovers in the first 20 minutes, with the Bulldogs surviving their 12 miscues for a halftime lead. Wright State led early before a steal and two foul shots by Hopkins gave Butler a 16-15 lead.
The teams traded hoops until Butler seemed to momentarily claim momentum with a 25-21 lead, but WSU's Reggie Arceneaux hit a 3-pointer to pull WSU within 25-24. A lay-up with 10.1 seconds left in the half gave BU a 27-25 halftime lead.
Johann Mpondo scored 12 points and Arceneaux added 11 for the Raiders. Butler forced Wright State into 18 turnovers, which the Bulldogs turned into 17 points.
Butler will continue its road swing at Detroit Sunday, Jan. 8 at 4 p.m. The game will be available online on ButlerSports.com and ESPN3.com.