Howard scores 16 to lead No. 25 Butler to win
VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP)—When No. 25 Butler toughened up, Valparaiso had no answer.
Matt Howard, who played just nine minutes in the first half after picking up his second foul, scored 16 points and Gordon Hayward added 15 to lead the Bulldogs to a 75-62 victory over Valparaiso after the pair scored just two points each in the first half.
“I think a big part of it is we knew were getting a little out-toughed in the first half. We weren’t playing as hard as we should have,” Howard said. “I knew I didn’t play as well as I should have in the first half. So I wanted to come out and just play a little harder.”
With the score tied at 31 at the start of the second half, Howard and Hayward got the Bulldogs (12-1, 3-0 Horizon League) going. Howard started it with a three-point play on a layup and a free throw. Then Hayward hit a pair of 3-pointers 59 seconds apart before Howard scored again inside to cap a 13-2 run that put the Bulldogs ahead 44-33.
After Brandon McPherson, who led Valparaiso with 22 points in 23 minutes, scored, Howard scored again inside while double teamed. Then Hayward hit another 3. Howard, who also had a blocked shot during the run, then made a free throw to give Butler a 50-35 lead.
“We wanted to make sure they weren’t getting anything too easy or getting back into a flow,” Howard said.
Hayward, who also had 13 rebounds, said the biggest difference was the Bulldogs did a better job of moving the ball inside and outside.
“When they sank in, we kicked out,” he said.
After shooting 38.5 percent in the first half, Butler shot 56.5 percent in the second. The Bulldogs also did a better job of taking care of the ball, turning it over only three times in the second half after having nine in the first.
Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said he was disappointed the Crusaders (4-10, 1-2) couldn’t make enough clutch shots in the second half, saying he thought his team had a good chance to surprise Butler.
“In the second half, Butler’s mentality was they’re winners and they’re going to find a way to win,” Drew said. “When they needed a basket, they got a basket.”
Willie Veasley had a career-high 15 points for Butler, all in the first half, and Shelvin Mack added 14 points. Urule Igbavboa scored 17 for Valparaiso.
Despite being outrebounded 36-22, Valparaiso outscored the Bulldogs 24-20 in the paint.
Butler coach Brad Stevens said he thought the game was closer than the score indicated.
“We just shot it so well in the second half,” he said. “That was probably the separator.”