Butler has settled down after some uncharacteristic jitters in its season opener. The Bulldogs have no reason to be nervous for a matchup with Evansville.
The 11th-ranked Bulldogs look to win their 23rd straight November game and earn yet another convincing win over the intrastate rival Aces on Saturday night.
Though it returns everyone from a team that made a third straight NCAA tournament appearance last season, Butler (2-0) shot 41.5 percent and was outrebounded 31-27 in a 73-62 season-opening win over Davidson last Saturday. The Bulldogs trailed by 10 late in the first half of that game.
Butler, though, bounced back with a much more composed effort versus Northwestern, winning 67-54 on Wednesday night.
“Our guys like to play, they like to play together,” Bulldogs coach Brad Stevens said. “Whoever they’re playing against, they’re not worried about their conference affiliation.”
It was Butler’s 22nd straight November win since a 78-74 loss to Michigan on Nov. 26, 2005.
The Bulldogs trail 60-54 in their series with the Aces (2-0), but have won six straight and 10 of 11. Butler has outscored Evansville by an average of 15.0 points over the last six meetings.
Shelvin Mack had a game-high 18 points for the Bulldogs in a 75-59 win over the Aces last Nov. 29.
Mack had 15 points versus the Wildcats, leading five players who had nine or more. Butler got 26 points from its reserves and did an outstanding job of taking care of the ball, committing 10 turnovers.
“We’ve been playing together since the end of last season,” said Bulldogs forward Avery Jukes, who had 10 points off the bench. “We know how good we are, but we also know what each other is going to do. We have so many options.”
Mack, a sophomore guard, is averaging 11.0 points and 6.0 assists. Sophomore swingman Gordon Hayward leads Butler with 15.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game.
The Bulldogs expect to have junior point guard Shawn Vanzant on the court after he suffered a scratched cornea early in the second half against Northwestern. Vanzant, a starter after two years as a reserve, will wear protective goggles.
Evansville’s James Haarsma couldn’t practice until early in November due to a stress fracture in his foot, but he had a career-high 22 points in a 76-46 win over SIU-Edwardsville on Wednesday night.
The Aces are off to a strong start despite losing four starters from last season’s team.
“We have a lot of room for improvement, but we’re getting better,” Evansville coach Marty Simmons said.
Haarsma, a sophomore forward, made 10 of his 14 shots and grabbed 12 rebounds. He’s the Aces’ top returning scorer after averaging 5.8 points in 31 games, one start, last season.
Evansville’s backcourt has been led by freshman Colt Ryan, who is averaging 15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 2.0 steals.