February 13, 2007

Butler Tops Florida Gulf Coast 79-65

Feb. 13, 2007

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Butler was ripe to be upset again.

Coming off a big loss last week and facing a Division II opponent that stayed close until the final minutes Tuesday night, the No. 13 Bulldogs got a career-high 24 points from Mike Green and 22 points from A.J. Graves in a 79-65 victory over Florida Gulf Coast.

"The loss took us kind of hard, but coach is good at preparing us to play," Green said, referring to Saturday's loss at Wright State, a defeat that could end up costing the Bulldogs homecourt advantage in the Horizon League tournament later this month.

The nonconference win by the Bulldogs (24-3) snapped a school-record 14-game winning streak by the Eagles (22-6), who will move up to Division I next season as members of the Atlantic Sun Conference.

"They play hard and hit some tough shots. They have a nice team," Green said. "I expected to be challenged."

Butler came in as the Division I leader in fewest turnovers, but repeated errors by the Bulldogs kept Florida Gulf Coast close almost until the end.

The Eagles cut a 17-point deficit to 49-42 midway through the second half before a dunk by Willie Veasley, and five points by Pete Campbell started a 15-4 run that broke the game open.

"There's an expectation for these guys to put them away," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said of Butler being the favorite.

"This is a difficult thing to ask," he said. "It was emotional on Saturday, and they've been a target of everybody. It can be a bit of a strain."

Butler took a 64-46 lead on a 3-pointer by Graves with just over 5 minutes remaining, and the Eagles came no closer than nine points the rest of the way. Green, whose previous high was 23 points, scored nine of Butler's final 11 points - all on free throws.

Campbell added 12 points and Brandon Crone finished with 11 for Butler. Beau Bauer, a transfer from IPFW and former teammate there of Campbell, led Florida Gulf Coast with 17 points, and Casey Wohlleb added 12.

"They are really a good team," Lickliter said. "They have six Division I transfers, a couple we recruited, and they're balanced."

Butler finished with 11 turnovers, including seven in the first half alone when the Bulldogs continually took the ball inside against the smaller Eagles.

Crone had a rebound basket and two layups during a 5-minute, 14-0 run midway through the opening period, and another basket by Veasley gave the Bulldogs a 31-14 lead, their biggest of the half.

But Bauer had six points late in the first half after the Bulldogs took their big lead, including a basket and two free throws that brought the Eagles within nine points. Another layup by Crone in the final seconds pushed the Bulldogs' advantage to 39-28 at the break.

The Eagles missed their first seven shots of the second half and fell behind 45-28 before their final comeback.

"We were ready to play, but they do a good job taking advantage of what you do wrong," said Bauer, who was the MVP for Indiana high school Class 2A champion Cass in 2003.

All nine of Gulf Coast's players scored, but besides Bauer and Wohlleb, no one else reached double figures.

"They're very quick," Eagles coach Dave Balza said of the Bulldogs. "In the first half, we forced them to turn over the ball and our guys responded by hitting big shot after big shot."