YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (AP)—Butler made sure its trip to Ohio wasn’t a completely wasted effort.
The No. 12 Bulldogs looked anxious to put their surprising loss at Cleveland State behind them, coming out strong and never letting Youngstown State get back in it.
Matt Howard scored 20 points and Pete Campbell had 19, including two timely 3-pointers that helped put away Youngstown State 78-69 Saturday night.
“It was vital to come out here and perform well,” said Mike Green, who finished with 16 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds.
Butler (17-2, 6-2 Horizon League) shot 44 percent from beyond the arc, using a flurry of 3-pointers to thwart Youngstown State’s repeated comeback attempts.
The Bulldogs, who had won eight straight until a 56-52 loss Thursday night at Cleveland State, wasted no time in taking their frustrations out against the Penguins.
Butler’s 12-0 run midway through the first half put them ahead 21-11 and they led by as many as 20 before going to the locker room with a 40-22 lead.
But Jack Liles’ three-point play got Youngstown State within 54-46 with 10:30 left. Campbell and A.J. Graves responded by combining for four straight 3-pointers to keep the Penguins out of reach.
“This team is capable of that and it’s good to see because we haven’t had those runs as much recently as we’ve had in the past,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
Youngstown State never gave up and made the final score look closer than the game actually was.
Liles led the Penguins (7-11, 3-5) with a career-high 21 points. Byron Davis scored 16 and John Barber added 15. Youngstown state has lost 13 of 14 against Butler.
“I’m disappointed in our execution and disappointed we couldn’t come up with the big plays we needed,” Youngstown State coach Jerry Slocum said.
Green, who leads Butler in scoring, rebounding and assists, did it all again for the Bulldogs. Butler had struggled against Cleveland State without Green, who got into foul trouble and played just eight minutes in the first half.
“He kind of orchestrates it,” Campbell said. “Most people notice the end result, but he sets everything up. Most people probably didn’t even know he was close to a triple-double.”
Green had no idea until he got in the locker room.
“If I knew, I would have stolen a couple more rebounds from Matt Howard,” Green said laughing.
“Whatever,” Howard shot back.
When the Bulldogs weren’t dropping 3-pointers, Howard was scoring underneath.
The 6-foot-8, 225-pound freshman, who has scored in double figures in 10 straight games, showed a nice combination of strength and finesse, including a nifty underhand layup. He finished with eight rebounds and was 9-for-14 shooting.
“We knew he was really good,” Stevens said. “What I’ve been pleased with for a freshman is his consistency. His approach has been consistent, his play has been consistent, and that’s unusual for a freshman.”
Graves, who entered shooting 30 percent (20-for-67) in his last seven games, missed layups, short jumpers and was 0-for-2 from the free-throw line. But he hit two 3-pointers when his team needed it and added three assists and four steals.
Graves led the team in scoring as a junior last season and helped the Bulldogs advance to the Sweet 16 where they lost to eventual champion Florida.
“He can miss his next 15. He’s allowed to shoot whenever he wants to,” Stevens said. “He’s got the neon green light.”
His teammates helped make up for his misses, especially Campbell, who was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. Campbell scored 20 at Youngstown State last season.
Stevens, a first-year coach, has matched the starts of four previous Butler teams with a 17-2 record.