No. 10 Butler Earns Thrilling 71-68 Victory Over Valparaiso
VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) - Pete Campbell knew to expect the ball when A.J. Graves drove to the basket.
"My guy helped in on A.J. because he had a wide open lane to the basket. I pretty much knew he was going to throw me the ball. That's the kind of player A.J. is," Campbell said. "He makes the right play when it needs to be made."
Campbell did too, hitting a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to give 10th-ranked Butler its first lead and Willie Veazley added a free throw with 7 seconds left as the Bulldogs beat Valparaiso 71-68 Tuesday night.
Valparaiso had one last chance to tie it, but a 3-point attempt by Brandon McPherson caromed off the rim and Butler's Julian Betko came down with the rebound as the Bulldogs (9-2 Horizon League) improved to 20-2 for the second time in school history, matching last year's start.
"Graves took over the game there at the end, and (Mike) Green did. And Campbell, I mean, he hits the 3, he put the dagger," Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. "You've got to admire the courage. He stepped up and hit it."
Graves, who shot 7-for-18, finished with 20 points, the most he's scored since posting 21 against Bradley on Dec. 19. He had averaged just 7.9 points in seven previous games before breaking out of his slump with 16 points last game against Illinois-Chicago.
"I didn't take the team on my back," Graves said. "We played well the whole game. Sometimes in our motion it just happens to be one guy making the points there. We kept running our offense."
The Crusaders (14-8, 5-5), appeared to be in control when Jarryd Loyd hit a 3 with 35 seconds left to give Valparaiso a 68-65 lead. But after Graves scored inside to cut the lead to 68-67, Loyd put up an air ball on a one-and-one.
"I went to the line and I missed," Loyd said. "It's the game of basketball. It happens, like coach said, to anyone. I feel like I let my team down. But, you know, I'll bounce back on Thursday."
After Campbell, who had 17 points, hit the 3, Veazley stole the ball from Loyd as the Crusaders lost for the 22nd straight time against ranked teams.
Butler coach Brad Stevens credited Graves and Green, who added 14 points, with leading the rally.
"They really made terrific plays with the basketball in the second half," he said.
Valpo's Matt Howard had his streak of 12 straight games scoring in double figures end when he played just 15 minutes because of foul trouble.
Loyd led Valparaiso with 16 points, McPherson had 14 and Urule Igbavboa had 11.
A record crowd of 5,432 at the Athletics-Recreation Center was on hand to see the near upset as Valparaiso, which opened the game on a 12-0 run, outrebounded Butler 36-26. But after being outscored 16-4 in the first half, Butler had a 20-10 advantage inside in the second half. Drew said the Crusaders, who have lost three league games by a total of seven points, need to do a better job of finishing.
"We will get better on that," he said.
The last time Valparaiso beat a ranked team was against then-No. 13 Mississippi 70-69 in the first round of the 1998 NCAA tournament on a last-second 3-pointer by current assistant coach Bryce Drew, the head coach's son.