January 12, 2008

No. 14 Butler Soundly Defeats Wis.-Milwaukee for Eighth-Straight Win, 72-56

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Matt Howard wasn't afraid to go strong to the basket, or to flip the ball back outside to an open teammate.

The high-scoring freshman had nine of his 17 points during a 14-0 first-half run that carried No. 14 Butler to its eighth straight victory, 72-56 over Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Saturday.

"If I feel a little opening one way or another, I'm going to attack that way," Howard said. "I just got a couple plays, made some baskets."

He was 6-of-10 from the field and scored in double figures for the eighth straight game and the ninth time in the 10 games since he became a starter. He also had seven rebounds, three blocked shots and a steal.

"Matt does a great job getting the angles (to the basket)," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "He's a hard guy to keep from going where he wants to go, and he's a hard guy to stop from fouling."

The Bulldogs (16-1, 5-1 Horizon League), off to the best start in school history, took a 20-point lead early in the second half, held off a brief comeback that brought the Panthers (9-8, 4-3) within 12 and put the game away midway through the final period with three straight 3-pointers, two of them by A.J. Graves.

"That's how we play. It's been more of an inside-out this year," Howard said. "They help me by giving me more room, and if they come to double I'm going to find them. It's a good one-two punch there."

Pete Campbell added 15 points for Butler, while Graves finished with 11 and Mike Green 10.

Paige Paulsen had 14 points and Deion James added 13 for Milwaukee, which had a six-game winning streak snapped.

"Butler's just a team that is very good," Milwaukee coach Rob Jeter said. "Defensively, they're one of the best I've seen. They really seemed to keep us off balance most of the game."

Playing its fourth game in eight days, Butler led from the start with two straight baskets by Howard. The Bulldogs held the Panthers to two free throws over the first 6 minutes, then took control for good by holding them without a point for more than 5 minutes during their 14-0 run.

A basket by Howard gave Butler a 28-11 lead before a 3-pointer by James ended the run.

"We were unable to neutralize Howard inside," Jeter said. "It's a load trying to keep Howard away from the basket. He really puts the defense in a tough position, does a very good job throwing his body at the rim. He's a terrific player."

The 6-foot-8 Howard, the top freshman in the conference in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots, dominated inside, and when Milwaukee tightened its defense under the basket, the Bulldogs repeatedly took the ball back to the perimeter for easy 3-pointers by Campbell and Graves.

Green scored the final two baskets of the first half and the first of the second half to give Butler a 39-19 lead.

Milwaukee cut it to 42-30 with baskets by Paulsen and James, but Howard scored again, Graves hit two 3-pointers and Julian Betko added another from long range as the Bulldogs pulled away for good.

"They just kept attacking. They didn't quit," Howard said of the Panthers. "Teams are going to make runs like that, and 25 (Paulsen) got a couple shots, he got in a rhythm, and their guards made plays. We had to get back attacking ourselves, and that's what we did."

Butler, which had a season-low five turnovers, took its biggest lead at 60-39 on Campbell's third 3-pointer.