Butler Holds Off Northwestern For Road Win
EVANSTON, ILL. -- Senior Andrew Smith led four Butler players in double-figures with a game-high 24 points and the Bulldogs held off a comeback attempt by host Northwestern to post a 74-65 victory at Welsh-Ryan Arena on Saturday (Dec. 8). It was Butler's first road win and fourth consecutive victory overall.
The Bulldogs (7-2) grabbed a three-point lead at halftime and then stretched that margin to as many as 11 points in the second half. Northwestern (7-3) put on a late rally and closed to within six points in the final minute, before Butler closed out the win at the free throw line.
Smith sparked Butler's second half surge with 19 of his points after intermission, including seven of nine shooting from the free throw line. He also had seven of his game-high 10 rebounds in the final half, and he added a couple of key steals.
"When we got the 10, 11-point lead, they went to the 1-3-1 (defense), and it was the first time we really had seen a 1-3-1 early in the season that was really extended, and it put us on our heels a little bit," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens. "But Andrew Smith came up with huge rebounds."
"That's sometimes what you give up when you're really extending in that zone, and Andrew was pretty forceful in going after the ball," continued Butler's coach. "I thought he played his best game of the year, and we needed every bit of it."
The two teams took turns holding the upper hand through the first 14 minutes, before sophomore Roosevelt Jones converted a conventional three-point play with 6:07 remaining to give the Bulldogs a 26-24 advantage. Butler remained in front for the rest of the game.
Ahead 34-31 at halftime, the Bulldogs opened the second half with a steal and lay-up by sophomore Alex Barlow and a three-point field goal by senior Rotnei Clark to quickly take the lead to eight points. The margin reached double-figures at 53-42 on a conventional three-point play by Smith with 8:24 remaining.
Butler still led 64-54 with 1:53 left, but a 6-2 Northwestern run cut the margin to six, 66-60 with 0:59 remaining. Butler put an end to that rally by hitting eight of eight free throws in the final minute. Freshman Kellen Dunham had six of those charity tosses, while sophomore Kameron Woods added the other two.
Smith hit eight of 11 shots in the game, including one from three-point range. His final point total was the second-highest of his Butler career, trailing only his 25-point performance against Wright State a year ago.
Clarke, who hit four of six shots from beyond the three-point arc, finished with 13 points, while Dunham came off the bench with 11. Jones finished with 10 points.
Dave Sobolewski led Northwestern with 21 points, before fouling out late in the game. Tre Demps, who replaced Sobolewski, added 15 points in 12 minutes.
The Bulldogs, who will take a one-week break for final exams, will return to action against No. 1-ranked Indiana at the Close The Gap Crossroads Classic in Indianapolis on Saturday, Dec. 15. That game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse is slated to start at 2 p.m. (ET).