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Butler cruises to Horizon League title as Wright State can’t get untracked

Indianapolis, IN- Anytime that Wright State and Butler get together, the games are usually tight, hard-fought and played with a high-skill level.

Shelvin Mack hot from 3-point land (BU)

This season however, Butler has beaten the Raiders three straight games. However, the other two games were not a blow out as Tuesday night’s Horizon League Championship game ended up, 70-45 for the Bulldogs. Butler earns the Horizon League’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.

You’d expect a better showing by the number 2 seed in the league, but on this night, the home team, Butler had everything going in their favor. Hosting the tournament at their home gym, venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse; winning 19 games in a row in the Horizon League; not having lost a game of any kind since December 22, 2009 at Alabama-Birmingham, 67-57; being 15-0 at Hinkle and their head coach Brad Stevens having a 6-1 record against Wright State.

The game started out as most games do when Butler is playing at home, they dominate from the beginning. At the first TV timeout, 15:38, the Bulldogs were up 9-2. Wright State was turning the ball over and looked rattled. In Saturday’s semi-final game against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Raiders looked confident. Last night, they looked like they had never played in Hinkle Fieldhouse before or had never played before a national television audience on ESPN.

Matt Howard shoots over Ronnie Thomas (BU)

N’Gai Evans tried to do his best to keep the Raiders in the game in the first half. The closest Wright State in the first half was eight points three times: 17-9, 19-11 and 21-8. But the visiting Raiders, usually a solid defensive team, couldn’t stop the hot-shooting Bulldogs who kept scoring at will all over the court.

Behind Shelvin Mack and his 3-point shooting (4 of 6) and 14 total points, Butler cruised to a 42-28 halftime advantage. The Bulldogs shot 66.7% (14-21) from the field including 61.5% (8-13) from three-point land. If it weren’t for the Bulldogs getting overanxious on offense and committing 10 turnovers, the score could’ve been 62-28. Matt Howard was his usual physical self in the paint scoring 8 points.

The Raiders on the other hand, didn’t shoot the ball in the first half, at 48.1% but were 1-7 from the 3-point arc and their best players were in foul trouble: Ronnie Thomas with 3, Todd Brown and Troy Tabler had 2 each.

The second became a nightmare out of Elm Street for the Raiders. The halftime advantage went from 42-28 to 51-30 to 57-34 and 63-37 and the final of 70-45. All told, Wright State only scored 17 points in the second half and shot 20% from the floor. They played so miserably that head coach Brad Brownell apologized to the media for his team’s showing.

The Raiders for now, end up at 20-12 with three of their losses to the Top 10 ranked Butler Bulldogs. The buzz around press row late in the second half and after the game was that the Raiders have shown enough with their RPI being at  97 and the non-conference schedule of  Washington, Belmont, Northeastern, Mississippi State and Ohio, that the NIT will come calling next weekend. Maybe matching them up against Dayton, Cincinnati or one of the MAC schools that won’t make the NCAA field. The Raiders should’ve made a post-season tournament the last two years, but two of the post season tournaments want teams to pay for their own expenses and/or guarantee a certain gate receipt money and Wright State, being a mid-major school won’t commit to that kind of tournament. But the NIT doesn’t require teams to pay, so that would be a good option for the Raiders.

Wright State has several seniors who would like to redeem themselves after Tuesday night’s debacle: Cory Cooperwood, Todd Brown and Ronnie Thomas.

A crowd of 6,065 saw Butler being led in scoring by: Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard with 14 points apiece, Zach Hahn with 11 and Willie Veasley adding 9.

Wright State was led by N’Gai Evans who scored 13 with Cory Cooperwood and Vaughn Duggins each putting up 9 points.

SOUNDS FROM THE POST-GAME PRESS CONFERENCE (to listen to the audio file, click on the number)

44 475 Brad Brownell Is Butler better than a 6th seed in the NCAA Tourney

44 476 Brad Brownell No offensive rhythm for the Raiders which is odd

44 477 Vaughn Duggins Wright State Guard Butler wouldn’t let scorers catch & shoot

44 480 Brad Brownell On Butler in the NCAA can they go far into tournament

44 483 Brad Brownell Should the number 2 team in Horizon League get to NIT

44 485 Brad Stevens Butler Coach 3 games vs Wright State all record shooting pct.

44 488 Brad Stevens Only allowed 17 points in 2nd Half defense was solid

44 489 Brad Stevens Does he feel that Wright State is post season worthy

44 490 Willie Veasley Butler Forward Last home game at Hinkle bittersweet

44 493 Brad Stevens On going 20-0 in Horizon League how good is this team
GAME NOTES

*The 2010 Speedway Horizon League Men’s Basketball Championship All-Tournament Team

N’Gai Evans-Wright State

Gordon Hayward-Butler

Ronald Nored-Butler

Shelvin Mack-Butler

Matt Howard-Butler (MVP)

* The 25-point margin is the second-largest in a championship game in Horizon League history. Xavier defeated Detroit 122-96 in the 1988 league tournament final.

* Butler has won the Horizon League Championship for the sixth time (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2008, 2010), matching  Xavier (1983, 1986-1989, 1991) for most in league history.

* Butler is the first Horizon League team ever to complete a loop season undefeated (18-0 in regular season, 2-0 in tournament).

* Butler advances to the NCAA Championship for the fourth year in a row and tenth overall. Xavier reached the “Big Dance” six years in a row, representing the conference from 1986-91.

* Matt Howard of Butler University has earned All-Tournament honors for the third year in a row, becoming the first player to accomplish that feat since Detroit’s Rashad Phillips (1999, 2000, 2001).

* The Bulldogs have won 20 consecutive games since its last loss at UAB on December 22, 2009. The Horizon League record is 23 consecutive wins by Green Bay (1995-96).

* Butler finishes the season 15-0 at home, the first time since 2002-03 that the Bulldogs went undefeated at home.

* Wright State reached the Horizon League Championship for the third time since joining the conference in 1994. They are 1-2 in the finals having beaten Butler in 2007.

* Four Horizon League teams are ranked in the Top 100 of the RPI for the second straight season, Butler is 25th, Cleveland State is 55th, Green Bay is 80th and Wright State is 97th.

* Butler junior Matt Howard became the 32nd player in school history to score 1,000 career points earlier in the season. He now has 1,285 points good for 18th.

* For the second straight year, Butler’s Brad Stevens was named Horizon league Coach of the Year. The 33-year-old became the fifth coach in league history to capture an award, back-to-back years. The others include: Pete Gillen of Xavier (1993-94), Barry Collier of Butler (1999-2000), Bruce Pearl of Milwaukee (2002-2003) and Todd Lickliter of Butler (2006-2007).

* Butler was unbeaten in the months of January and February for the first time in school History.


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