INDIANAPOLIS (AP)—A.J. Graves never feels shy about shooting 3-pointers.
Despite struggling from beyond the arc in Butler’s previous two games, including a loss at Wright State, Graves made a season-high seven 3s and scored 25 points to lead the No. 18 Bulldogs past Florida State 79-68 in the Wooden Tradition on Saturday.
“A.J.’s not going to follow it up with another weekend where he’s 0-for-11,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “He’s too resilient for that.”
Graves, who shot 16 3-pointers, hit three of his six attempts in the second half, including a crucial one to give Butler a 66-59 lead with 2:35 remaining.
“I probably was forcing shots the last couple games, not playing within the team concept,” the senior guard said. “Today, we moved the ball around well, and I got some good looks and knocked them down.”
Mike Green scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half and Matt Howard had 11 points for the Bulldogs (9-1), who were anxious to get back on the court following the Dec. 8 defeat.
“We couldn’t wait to be in the gym,” Green said. “Any time you come off a loss, you’re hungry.”
Jason Rich finished with 17 points, Ralph Mims chipped in 16 and Uche Echefu grabbed 12 rebounds for Florida State (9-3), which got within three points in the second half but couldn’t get over the hump.
The Seminoles had their six-game win streak snapped.
“Each time we got close, they made great decisions with the ball,” Florida State coach Leonard Hamilton said. “We kept fighting, but they did a much better job executing on the offensive end than we did on the defensive end.”
The Bulldogs, who led by eight at halftime, took a 51-41 lead following Julian Betko’s 3-pointer with 12 minutes left. Florida State scored the next seven points to get within 51-48.
Graves responded by draining a 3-pointer on Butler’s ensuing possession, prompting a Florida State player on the bench to yell, “Don’t let Graves shoot it!”
Apparently, nobody was listening. Graves proceeded to hit two more triples down the stretch.
“He was a little too much for us to handle,” Hamilton said.
The Seminoles cut the deficit to 66-62, but Green scored Butler’s next nine points to help seal the win.
Stevens liked how his team responded to its only loss.
“For them to play at this level and execute at this level was certainly pleasing to me,” he said.
The Bulldogs, who were led by Graves’ 14 points in the first half, took a 27-17 lead on Drew Streicher’s layup with 6:56 left. The Seminoles made it 29-26 after Rich’s 3-pointer, but Butler stretched the advantage back to eight before the break.