February 7, 2009

No. 11 Butler Defeats Wright State on the Road, 69-51

DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -An exhausting week on the road ended with No. 11 Butler getting a victory at one of its least-favorite places to visit.

Zach Hahn scored a career-high 17 points on Saturday night, and the Bulldogs beat Wright State 69-51, ending a grinding stretch of three games in six days, all of them on the road.

The Bulldogs (21-2, 12-1 Horizon) lost at Wisconsin-Green Bay 75-66 on Monday, held off Detroit 66-61 on Thursday, then headed home after getting their first victory at the Nutter Center in more than six years.

"This stretch of games - that's as tough as any stretch I've heard of in any league anywhere," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "I'm really proud of our guys."

Butler had dropped seven straight at the Nutter Center, where the Bulldogs have lost every which way - single digits, double digits, double overtime. They've lost regular-season games and tournament games there as well. A young, balanced team that has far exceeded expectations got the breakthrough win.

Wright State (14-10, 8-5) had been on the upswing - 12 wins in the last 14 games - despite injuries to their guards. Leading scorer Vaughn Duggins broke a finger in December and is out for the season. John David Gardner didn't suit up for Saturday's game because of an injured hip.

Against Butler, they could have used both of them - and more.

"They take advantage of every single mistake you make," said Scott Grote, who led Wright State with 13 points and eight rebounds. "We were in scramble mode in the first half. We gave them a lot of open looks from 3. That's what they want."

Hahn got most of them. The sophomore guard had never scored more than 13 points in a game, but topped that in the first half alone by going 5-for-5 from behind the arc.

"If you're open they pass you the ball and expect you to make the shots," Hahn said.

Hahn finally missed one in the second half, when Butler pushed the lead to 24 and essentially played it out. Willie Veasley added 13 points against a defense that focused on trying to take away the close-up shot.

"We tried to get inside as much as we could," Hahn said. "But they kept sinking and we kept kicking it out."

The overriding question was whether Butler would be dragging after struggling to hold on for a victory in Detroit two days earlier. Instead, the Bulldogs looked refreshed when they took the court.

"The transitive property doesn't apply, that's all I have to say," Stevens said.

The Bulldogs immediately put their imprint on a matchup of two of the nation's top defenses. Wright State came in ranked No. 2 in Division I, allowing only 55.2 points per game. Butler was right behind at 56.5. Only one of them played much defense in the first seven minutes.

Wright State went 1-for-11 with four turnovers in the opening minutes, helping Butler pull ahead 19-2. Five Bulldogs scored during the spurt, with Butler going 7-of-12 from the field.

"They came out on fire," said Todd Brown, who added 12 points for Wright State. "Zach Hahn found open 3s in the first half. They hit a lot of shots."

When Hahn hit a no-hesitation 3-pointer at the end of a fastbreak - the first of his five in the half - Butler led 27-6 and the home crowd was stunned. The Bulldogs hadn't won at Wright State since Jan. 16, 2003. An entire recruiting class had come and gone since that last win.

Hahn had the most to do with ending that streak. After Wright State trimmed the lead to 28-16, Hahn hit three consecutive 3s, blunting Wright State's only significant surge.

By that point, it was clear where this one was heading.

"We made more defensive errors in the first half than we usually do," coach Brad Brownell said. "When they shoot like they did in the first half, you're going to be in trouble."