Sophomore Matt Howard scored a team-high 16 points and freshman Gordon Hayward added 15 points and a career-high 13 rebounds to lead visiting Butler to a 75-62 victory over Valparaiso in a Horizon League game at the Athletics-Recreation Center on Saturday, Jan. 3. The win was Butler's third straight on the road to open the league season.
The Bulldogs (12-1), ranked 25th in the Associated Press "Top 25", used a big second half effort to pull away in front of a crowd of 4,737. Howard and Hayward combined for all 19 points in a 19-4 Butler run at the start of the second that put the Bulldogs in front for good, and the Bulldogs out-scored Valparaiso, 44-31, over the final 20 minutes.
"We knew we were getting a little out-toughed in the first half," said Howard after the game. "We weren't playing as hard as we should have been."
Howard opened the second half with a conventional three-point play to break a 31-31 halftime tie. Valparaiso responded with a lay-up to cut Butler's margin to one, but then the Bulldogs rolled off 10 unanswered points to stretch the lead to double-digits. Howard started the run with a lay-up, Hayward added a pair of three-point field goals and Howard finished the run with another lay-up.
The Crusaders (4-10, 1-2 Horizon League) never got closer than six points for the rest of the game.
Butler, behind the early scoring of junior Willie Veasley, opened the game with a 17-8 run. Veasley scored eight of the 17 tallies on his way to a career-high 15 points, all in the first 20 minutes. But Valparaiso, fueled by former Lawrence North High School guard Brandon McPherson, battled back and eventually took a 27-20 lead.
The Bulldogs used an 11-4 run in the final 5:48 of the first half to eventually tie the game by halftime.
McPherson led the Crusaders with 22 points, while teammate Urule Igbavboa added 17. Butler freshman Shelvin Mack joined teammates Howard, Hayward and Veasley in double-figures with 14 points.
The Bulldogs will begin a brief two-game homestand against Wright State on Thursday, Jan. 8. That game at Hinkle Fieldhouse is slated for 7 p.m.