Butler hoped to move into a tie for the Horizon League lead in its last game. Instead, it left the court the victim of a stunning upset.
There won’t be much time for the 12th-ranked Bulldogs to think about that loss as they visit Youngstown State on Saturday night.
Butler (16-2, 5-2) was expected to hand surprising Cleveland State its first conference loss of the season Thursday, but the upstart Vikings, who had lost 19 straight against ranked opponents, pulled off a 56-52 victory.
Freshman Matt Howard scored 16 points and Pete Campbell added 15 for the Bulldogs, who had an eight-game overall win streak snapped with their first loss to Cleveland State in three years.
“You watch Cleveland State on tape and it’s easy to see how good they are,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “They play hard and they play with passion.”
Butler had made a school and conference-record 20 3-pointers in its previous meeting with the Vikings, a 92-50 win on Feb. 8. On Thursday, the Bulldogs were 6-of-23 from 3-point range, missing several in the final minute.
That number would have been even worse had Campbell not gone 5-of-7 from beyond the arc.
Mike Green, Butler’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game, was limited to 12 on 4-of-11 from the field before fouling out for the first time this season. Fellow senior A.J. Graves matched a season low with five points - more than nine below his average - on 2-of-11 shooting.
Although it was small consolation, the Bulldogs continued to play strong defense Thursday. They lead the Horizon League and rank 12th nationally in scoring defense (57.7 ppg), having held 12 straight opponents under 70 points.
Butler, which hasn’t lost two straight since Jan. 19 and 21, 2006, has won three in a row and 12 of its last 13 meetings with Youngstown State (7-10, 3-4). The Bulldogs swept last season’s two-game series, including a 71-58 road victory Jan. 31.
The Penguins lost for the third time in four games Thursday, 67-61 to visiting Valparaiso. Senior Byron Davis scored a career-high 23 points on 10-of-16 from the field while John Barber added 18 points and eight rebounds.
Given its offensive struggles and Butler’s stingy defense, points figure to be hard to come by Saturday for Youngstown State, which is eighth in the conference in scoring (64.7 ppg). It’s averaging 56.2 points during the current 1-3 stretch.
One reason for the Penguins’ offensive problems is an inability to get to the free-throw line. While Butler has attempted 69 free throws in its last three games, Youngstown State has gone to the line only 30 times in its previous three contests.
The Penguins will try to avoid their first three-game home losing streak since a four-game slide from Jan. 26-Feb. 25, 2006.