DETROIT (AP)—Detroit found out there’s more to No. 13 Butler than its seniors.
The Titans kept the Bulldogs’ veteran perimeter players in check but rarely had an answer for freshman center Matt Howard, who had 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in a 53-46 victory over Detroit in the Horizon League opener for both teams.
Julian Betko had a late 3-pointer—Butler’s only successful shot from behind the arc in the second half—to keep the Bulldogs (8-0) unbeaten.
“He made some amazing plays,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said of Howard, who made his first career start in place of Pete Campbell, who left a Dec. 1 victory over Ohio State with a knee injury.
“The seniors didn’t have the greatest of games but he had some room out there to operate.”
Butler entered the game shooting 44 percent from 3-point range but finished 3-for-19. Betko’s shot broke a streak of nine straight misses from behind the arc.
Jon Goode had 21 points and seven assists for the Titans (4-4), who lost their second straight game and third straight to Butler.
The teams traded baskets and the lead for much of the second half before Betko made the jump shot with 2:45 to play that gave the Bulldogs the lead for good. Howard’s tip-in on the possession after Betko’s 3-pointer forced the Titans to foul the rest of the way.
“My job was just to go out and play tough,” said Howard, who scored 16 points in the second half—most of them near the basket. “I had a tough first half but guys started looking for me later in the game.”
Detroit hampered the Bulldogs’ perimeter shooters with a zone defense that often flummoxed leading scorers A.J. Graves and Mike Green. Graves’ eight points were 10 less than his average while Green had nine, six off his.
“They played zone and brought their bigs up,” Stevens said. “They threw us off a little bit.
“The next time we see something like that, we’ll be better.”
Goode kept the Titans close in the late going but Detroit managed just six points and one field goal over the final three minutes.
“When they scored on us, a lot of the baskets were because of breakdowns,” Detroit coach Perry Watson said. “When they needed to make a play, they made a play but we didn’t.”
The Bulldogs led 20-17 at halftime despite shooting just 27 percent from the field.
The victory marked their first consecutive wins at Detroit since 1991-92.