GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP)—No matter the circumstances, A.J. Graves and his four fellow seniors almost always find a way to will their team to a win.
Graves led four players in double figures with 16 points including six straight free throws over the final 1:27 and No. 10 Butler survived a scare in a 62-57 win at Wisconsin-Green Bay on Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (21-2 overall, 10-2 Horizon League) won their fifth straight and 13th out of 14 games overall despite a 1-for-18 start from the 3-point line and scoring 20 first-half points.
“They’re a very seasoned and talented and tough team but tonight I thought we let them off the hook a little bit,” Green Bay coach Tod Kowalczyk said.
But in the end, the Bulldogs were just a little better than the Phoenix, hitting seven of their final 14 3-point attempts and shooting 52 percent in the second half after trailing by two at the break.
“We have a lot of confidence in each other. We know what we’re capable of doing and we do it in practice and in previous games,” Graves said. “We’ve just got to stay confident and play defense so we keep ourselves in the game when our shots aren’t going down.”
Butler built a 49-39 lead midway through the second half but had to withstand one final charge by the Phoenix (13-10, 7-6). Green Bay went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 49-47 with 4:18 left.
Graves missed a 3 on the next possession and the Phoenix had a chance to tie or take the lead, but Terry Evans who had a huge night with 14 points and 15 rebounds badly missed a 3. That was Green Bay’s last shot at taking back the lead.
“Terry took a bad shot. He played his heart out. He really played well tonight and trust me, Terry would like to have had that shot back,” Kowalczyk said. “He knew it at the time and I think just the emotion of the game got to him a little bit there.”
After Evans’ miss, Pete Campbell shook off an uncharacteristic poor shooting performance with back-to-back 3s to remove all doubt for the Bulldogs.
“Pete is a really good shooter, I’m sure you know that, but all our guys, they miss a couple, you’ve got to keep throwing them the ball because you know it’s coming,” Butler guard Mike Green said. “Once they hit one then they get going.”
Green Bay held a 29-26 lead 5 minutes into the second half, but Green started to take over. He scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and had two key 3-point plays to help swing the momentum in Butler’s favor.
“I thought Mike did a great job attacking, not only in the half court, but in transition,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “He got the ball in the middle of the paint and either made plays for himself and made plays for others.”
Campbell finished with 12 points on four 3-pointers and Matt Howard chipped in 10 for the Bulldogs.
Ryan Tillema had 14 points, while Rahmon Fletcher added 12 for Green Bay.
Green, who leads the Bulldogs in scoring, rebounding and assists, finished with team highs of seven rebounds, six assists and four steals.
“He controlled the tempo of the game. Without question, in my opinion, (he’s) the best player in the league,” Kowalczyk said of Green.
Mike Schachtner had nine points and nine rebounds for Green Bay, which lost for just the second time at home this season.
The Bulldogs have defeated the Phoenix eight times in a row and are two wins away from matching the best start in school history at 23-2.