Butler became one of the biggest stories in college basketball last season with a stunning run through non-conference play. Now the Bulldogs face the team which brought a surprising end to that streak.
Indiana State looks to upset a ranked Butler team for the second consecutive year and knock off its in-state rival for the fourth straight time on Wednesday.
The Bulldogs (1-0) rejoined the rankings this week at No. 25 just in time for their rematch with the Sycamores (1-0). When the teams met last year on Dec. 9, Butler entered with a No. 15 ranking—its highest in 48 years—and a 10-0 record which included wins over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga during an 11-day stretch in November.
It was an unheralded Indiana State program which ended Butler’s perfect start with a 72-64 victory behind 24 points from Gabriel Moore, who after the game said the Bulldogs “weren’t very quick.”
Butler went on to finish 29-7 and lost to eventual national champion Florida in the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.
The Bulldogs’ top two scorers both missed significant stretches of last year’s game at Indiana State—A.J. Graves was poked in the right eye late in the first half and Mike Green was plagued by foul trouble. Green and Graves still combined for 32 points, and now both seniors enter this contest looking to beat the Sycamores for the first time.
Indiana State has won the last three meetings after losing six of eight. The Sycamores won on a 3-pointer at the buzzer in 2005 in their last visit to Butler’s Hinkle Fieldhouse for what turned out to be the Bulldogs’ only home loss that season.
This game is the home opener for Butler following a 61-45 road victory over Ball State on Friday. Graves and Green each were held to 11 points, but Pete Campbell stepped up to score 17 and Matt Howard added 14 off the bench.
The Bulldogs held Ball State to 17 points in the first half.
“I thought our guys played really hard tonight,” said Butler coach Brad Stevens after picking up his first career head coaching victory. “It wasn’t perfect and we can get better, but I did think the effort was really good.”
Stevens has taken over the Bulldogs after serving as an assistant for former coach Todd Lickliter, who left for Iowa during the offseason. Lickliter led Butler to a 131-61 record and four postseason tournaments in six years.
“We’ll play the same style,” Stevens said after he was hired in April. “We’ll emphasize the same things.”
The key for the Bulldogs remains on the defensive end after they finished fifth in the country last season in points allowed at 57.1 per game and led the Horizon League in field-goal percentage defense at 40.6.
While the defense is expected to stay tough, there is reason to be optimistic about the offense even though two starters are gone from last season. The Bulldogs return four of their top five scorers, led by Graves and Green, who averaged 16.9 and 13.9 points, respectively.
Julian Betko also returns as a starter after averaging 4.3 points last season and is joined in the lineup by former reserves Campbell and Drew Streicher. Campbell was second nationally in 3-point accuracy last season at 51.9 percent as he averaged 9.1 points, and the senior went 5-of-11 from beyond the arc Friday.
Indiana State opened its season with a 78-45 win over Division II Oakland City on Friday.
The Sycamores made 12 3-pointers, led by four from Cole Holmstrom, who finished with 12 points. Marico Stinson scored a team-high 15 points.
Indiana State outrebounded the Mighty Oaks 40-25 and forced them into 22 turnovers, which led to 35 points.