Butler hasn’t been challenged lately during the nation’s longest win streak, and that’s not expected to change Wednesday night.
The No. 18 Bulldogs will be heavily favored to set a school record with their 16th straight win when they host an Illinois-Chicago team that is 0-13 on the road.
Butler (23-4, 16-0) has matched the best start in Horizon League history, set when Wisconsin-Green Bay finished 16-0 in 1995-96. The Bulldogs also have equaled the longest win streak in school history, originally set by the 1999-2000 team that won 15 in a row.
“I haven’t really thought about the winning streak, but I do know it is a big deal to keep getting better,” coach Brad Stevens said. “As long as there is season left, the best moment should not be behind you.”
The Bulldogs already have clinched their fourth straight regular-season title and the top seed for the upcoming Horizon League tournament heading into their final league home game. They’ve won 42 of their last 44 regular-season league games at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Butler’s last four victories have all been by double digits, including Saturday’s 70-59 victory at Cleveland State. Matt Howard and Gordon Hayward each had double-doubles as the Bulldogs held a commanding 46-20 edge on the glass.
“We wanted to get aggressive and go at them anyway possible,” said Howard, who has scored in double figures in seven straight games while shooting 58.6 percent.
Although Butler is cruising in the league, Stevens is concerned about his team’s recent ballhandling problems. The Bulldogs had 17 turnovers Saturday and are averaging 16.6 over their last five games.
“That’s the one part of our game where I’m not happy,” Stevens said. “But it is fixable.”
Hayward averaged 16.3 points and 11.7 rebounds in three games last week to earn Horizon League player of the week honors for the third time this season.
The Bulldogs have won seven straight over Illinois-Chicago (6-19, 2-13), which is trying to avoid losing 20 games for the first time since 1999-2000. The Flames are one of the worst shooting teams in the country at 37.9 percent, and are averaging a league-low 60.8 points per game.
Hayward was dominant with a season-high 25 points in 27 minutes in Butler’s 84-55 road win over UIC on Jan. 23. All 15 Bulldogs saw action, and a season-high 13 scored in the lopsided contest.
Butler slowed down Flames leading scorer Robo Kreps, who matched a season low with four points. Jeremy Buttell and Zavion Neely each scored 13 to lead UIC.
The Flames were outscored 45-30 in the second half in an 80-63 loss at crosstown rival Loyola of Chicago on Saturday. Kreps made 2 of 12 shots for eight points after averaging 15.0 in his previous five games.
The Flames have lost by an average of 16.7 points during a six-game slide at Hinkle Fieldhouse.