Sophomore Matt Howard scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Butler to a 73-53 victory over visiting Florida Gulf Coast in a non-league game at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday (Dec. 20). The game was the first for the 9-1 Bulldogs since their three-point setback at nationally-ranked Ohio State on Dec. 13.
Butler raced to an 8-0 lead in the first three minutes on a three-point field goal by freshman Shelvin Mack, a free throw by Howard, a pair of free throws by freshman Gordon Hayward and a lay-up by freshman Ronald Nored. The Bulldogs never looked back.
"I was excited to start the way we did. It's hard coming off of final exams, but it's hard for everybody. We haven't started well against this team the last two years," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens.
The Bulldogs, who defeated Florida Gulf Coast for the third straight year, stretched the margin to 17 points late in the first half and took a 43-26 lead to the locker room at halftime. Butler's first half performance included eight three-point field goals by five different players.
Butler scored the first six points of the second half on a three-point field goal by Willie Veasley and a conventional three-point play by Howard to take a 23-point lead, and Florida Gulf Coast (4-7) never got closer than 17 points for the rest of the contest.
Howard was one of three Bulldogs to score in double-figures. Veasley matched his career-high with 13 points, while Mack chipped in with 12. Mack also finished with a career-high eight assists, as the Bulldogs racked up 19 assists on 23 field goals.
Seven different Butler players contributed to the Bulldogs' 12 three-point field goals in the game, with Veasley and Mack each finishing with three long-range baskets.
Ben Vega came off the bench to lead Florida Gulf Coast with 14 points.
Butler will close out its pre-Christmas schedule at nationally-ranked Xavier on Tuesday, Dec. 23. That game at the Cintas Center is slated for 7 p.m. (ET) and will be televised nationally on ESPNU.