Jan. 20, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Butler's A.J. Graves is just about back to normal, and that's bad news for the rest of the Horizon League.
Back in the starting lineup for the first time in three games, Graves scored 28 points and raised his nation-best free-throws streak to 63 in a row, leading the 18th-ranked Bulldogs to an 80-59 victory over Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday.
"Healthwise, I'm pretty much 100 percent, except for some aches in my lower left jaw," said Graves, who had all four wisdom teeth removed and missed the first game of his college career a week earlier.
"Otherwise, I'm pretty much back to where I was a couple weeks ago. Condition-wise, I felt great."
The junior guard came off the bench and, because of dehydration, played only 13 minutes on Wednesday night in a win over Youngstown State. In from the start this game, however, Graves played a team-high 36 minutes, hit his first four shots - including 3 3-pointers - and scored 21 of his 28 points in the first half as the Bulldogs (17-2, 5-1) pulled away to their 19th straight home victory.
"I got in some shooting yesterday," said Graves, the Horizon's second-leading scorer at 18.6 points a game. "Just having my stamina back and being able to have my legs and get the liftoff is what helped me get back into it so quickly."
Wisconsin-Green Bay (10-9, 2-4) led 14-9 after a 10-0 run early in the first half, but the Phoenix managed only one field goal over the next 9 minutes.
After a technical foul on the Butler bench, Graves' third straight 3-pointer started the Bulldogs' comeback. He then had nine more points during a 14-0 run that put the Bulldogs in control for good.
"The first few minutes were hard to stop either team," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "Green Bay is very skilled, hard to guard. We were able to get a few stops and then able to execute a little bit and obviously extend it. Our bench came in and did a terrific job."
Graves hit four straight free throws in the first half and five more in the second, putting him at 91-of-92 and a Division I-leading 98.9 percent for the season.
Pete Campbell, Butler's top reserve, added 14 points and Brandon Crone had 13 for the Bulldogs, who matched the school's 1928-29 record for the best 19-game start. Ryan Evanochko led Green Bay with 21 points, the only Phoenix player in double figures.
"We have to have some other guys step up and perform," Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
"There was a 5- to 8-minute stretch in the first half where we played a little bit panicked," he said. "That stretch was really the game. ... Everytime they had an open 3, it seemed they made it."
Graves' early shooting helped the Bulldogs to a 45-26 lead at halftime. The Phoenix stayed with Butler early in the second half and cut the lead to 54-41 on a 3-pointer by Troy Cotton.
Butler's next seven field goals were 3-pointers, including two each by Crone, Marcus Nellems and Campbell, and the Bulldogs began pulling away for good. Butler finished 14-for-23 on 3s, the fifth straight game with at least 10. The Bulldogs took their biggest lead at 77-52 on Campbell's second 3 with less than 5 minutes to go.
Graves was 5-of-8 on 3-pointers, missing both of his attempts in the second half. The Bulldogs were 24-of-25 from the foul line, including 9-for-9 by Graves.