March 2, 2004
Sophomore Avery Sheets and freshmen Jamie Smalligan and Nick Brooks combined for 63 points to lead #6 seed Butler past visiting Youngstown State, 88-57, in the opening round of Horizon League Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Tuesday (March 2). The victory lifts the Bulldogs to 15-13 on the year and into a quarterfinals game against #3 seed UW-Green Bay on Friday (March 5).
Sheets, Smalligan and Brooks each scored 21 points in the game. The three combined to hit 24 of 31 shots, including 10 of 15 from the three-point arc. Smalligan and Brooks each recorded a career scoring high, while Sheets topped the 20-point mark for the third time in his young career. The last time Butler had three players score 20 points in a game was Dec. 5, 1984, when Tim Haseley (30), Tim McRoberts (21) and Darrin Fitzgerald (20) turned the trick against Indiana State.
"The ball movement was terrific," said Butler head coach Todd Lickliter. "We were patient and shot it when we were open."
"The big thing, though, was we decided to guard on every possession. We didn't take any possessions off."
The Bulldogs, behind the early scoring of Smalligan, jumped to a 19-point lead in the first half, 45-26. Smalligan, a 7-0 center, hit seven of 11 shots in the first 20 minutes, including four of seven from the three-point arc. He finished the period with 18 points.
Brooks and Sheets took over in the second half. Brooks scored 13 points in the final 20 minutes, while Sheets added 10.
"Avery and Mike (Monserez) did a great job of setting things up," said Smalligan after the game. "I was getting good looks, and they were getting the ball to me."
Brooks agreed. "We've got great teammates who were getting us open."
Monserez finished with nine assists, and he tied Sheets and Smalligan for team-rebounding honors with five.
The Bulldogs shot a season-best 56.7% from the floor in the first half, and then turned it up a notch in the second half, hitting at a 63.6% clip. The final game total of 59.6% was a season-high for Butler, as were the 88 points.
"(Butler) really played extremely well. It's the best they executed against us in the past two years," said Youngstown State head coach John Robic. "They reminded me of last year's Butler team the way they passed the ball."
The victory assured the Bulldogs of an 11th consecutive winning season. Youngstown State fell to 8-20.