INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—A.J. Graves plays every possession as though no lead is safe.
“I don’t remember the runs,” said Graves, whose 19 points and uncanny free throw marksmanship led No. 13 Butler to a 73-42 victory over Wright State on Saturday.
“We defended well and communicated on defense,” Graves said. “Offensively, we just moved the ball. We worked hard on that all week and it showed up today.”
The Bulldogs (14-1, 3-0 Horizon League), off to the school’s best start after the first 15 games of a season, took control with a 16-point run in the first half. They built the lead to 30 points with another run of 14 straight early in the second half and never led by less than 26 points after that.
At the end, the victory long assured and the starters on the bench, the Bulldogs were playing as hard as at the start.
“We needed to defend with great purpose, and as a team I thought we established that early,” coach Todd Lickliter said. “We moved the ball really well and got great contributions off the bench.”
The 30 points by the Butler reserves matched the total by the starters for Wright State (9-7, 2-1).
“We were outplayed. It was easy to see why,” Raiders coach Brad Brownell said. “It was a long day for us.”
Graves made all five of his foul shots, stretching his current streak to 52 in a row and improving to 80-for-81 for the season. He also had four 3-pointers, including two in a row to finish off the Bulldogs’ second big run. Another 3 by Graves and one by Marcus Nellems pushed the lead to 61-29 with 9 minutes to go.
“I look forward to going to the free throw line, because they’re easy buckets. No one’s guarding me,” said Graves, who came into the game second in the nation in free throw percentage.
His free throw streak is the longest for Butler since Darnell Archey set the NCAA Division I record with 85 straight four years ago, and he gave Butler a 66-33 lead with his final two foul shots before retiring to the bench with 5 minutes remaining.
Pete Campbell, who sat out last year after transferring to Butler from IPFW, had a season-high 12 points, all on 3-pointers, and Drew Streicher added 10 points for the Bulldogs, both off the bench.
The Raiders, led by DaShaun Wood with 12 points, finished with a season-low in points on just 38 percent shooting and had a four-game winning streak snapped.
“You have good days and bad days. We’ve got to figure out ways to improve from today,” Brownell said. “It was a low-possession game, and they do a great job in transition defense.”
Butler, which had lost six of its last seven games against Wright State, never trailed this time.
A 3-pointer by Graves broke the only tie in the opening minutes, but the Bulldogs didn’t start pulling away until midway through the first half.
A layup by Julian Betko, a 3-pointer by Mike Green and a basket and free throw by Streicher gave Butler its first double-digit lead. Wright state continued missing, and another basket by Graves and two straight 3-pointers by Campbell finished the Bulldogs’ 16-point run. Wood ended the streak with two free throws, stretching his streak to 30 in a row, but Graves was fouled on a 3-point attempt and hit all three free throws.
A basket by freshman Vaughn Duggins was the Raiders’ first field goal in almost 10 minutes, but another 3-pointer by Campbell a half-minute later gave Butler its biggest lead of the half, 33-13. The Bulldogs’ biggest leads were 35 points in the game’s closing minutes.