Butler learned last week that its work in nonconference play didn’t mean much to its Horizon League rivals.
The 13th-ranked Bulldogs (13-1, 2-0) can probably expect an intense battle Saturday when they meet Wright State (9-6, 2-0).
Butler is two wins shy of matching the best start in school history, set in 2002-03. The Bulldogs have risen in the rankings because of big victories against Indiana, Notre Dame, Tennessee and Gonzaga.
Last Saturday, Butler survived its worst shooting game of the season in a 55-50 victory at Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Bulldogs shot 34.1 percent and made just one 3-pointer—a season low after they hit at least five in each of their first 13 games.
“We just struggled at the skill aspects of the game,” Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. “They defended well. It was very difficult.”
Butler managed only 11 points through the game’s first 15 minutes and never got into a rhythm. The Bulldogs, though, took control when reserve Drew Streicher had back-to-back baskets that snapped a 40-40 tie with 3:26 to go.
“The coach finally figured it out, after about 38 minutes, to run some plays to him,” Lickliter said.
Butler will likely see a similarly inspired effort from Wright State, which has won a season-high four straight. The Bulldogs have dropped six of their last seven meetings against the Raiders, including an 86-83 double-overtime loss in the last matchup on Feb. 11.
DaShaun Wood scored 33 points to lead Wright State in that game. Wood, a senior guard, is the Horizon League’s leading scorer at 18.8 points per game this season.
Wood is the last player to score 30 points or more against the defensive-minded Bulldogs. Butler is allowing a league-low 56.9 points this season.
Butler enters with a 15-game home winning streak, including a 5-0 mark this season. The Bulldogs have won 11 straight conference home games since a 65-56 loss to Cleveland State on Feb. 10, 2005.
Leading scorer A.J. Graves played well in last season’s two meetings against Wright State, averaging 20.5 points on 45.2 percent shooting. Graves is averaging a career-high 17.9 points this season despite a career-low 38.3 shooting percentage. The junior guard has also made 75 of 76 foul shots.
Graves has received plenty of help from backcourt mate Mike Green, who is averaging 17.0 points over his last nine games. Green has led Butler in scoring in five of the last seven contests.
Wood is averaging 21.5 points during Wright State’s winning streak, although he was held to 12 in a 76-62 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Thursday.
Jordan Pleiman helped pick up the slack with season highs of 20 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth career double-double. Pleiman, who averaged 16.0 points and 8.0 rebounds last season against Butler, is averaging 7.9 points and 6.1 rebounds this season.