Easily the class of the Horizon League during the regular
season, Butler won’t have to leave its home court to reassert its
dominance in the conference tournament.
The 12th-ranked Bulldogs seek to remain unbeaten at home and in
conference play Saturday when they face Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the
Horizon League semifinals at Hinkle Fieldhouse, which is hosting
the tournament for the third straight year.
Butler (26-4) steamrolled through its conference schedule, going
18-0 with the last six of those victories coming by double-digit
margins. The Bulldogs are the only Division I team this season
still unbeaten in conference play, and the first in the Horizon to
run the table since Wisconsin-Green Bay in 1995-96. They’ve won 20
straight regular-season conference games overall.
Adding to the air of invincibility, Butler went 13-0 at Hinkle
Fieldhouse, finishing the regular season unbeaten at home for the
first time since 2002-03. The Bulldogs are 42-3 there under coach
On top of all that, their 18-game overall winning streak is both
a school record and the longest active run in the nation.
“It’s definitely something special,” said senior forward Willie
Veasley, who had a career-high 20 points with six rebounds as
Butler wrapped up its regular season by winning 74-69 at Valparaiso
on Feb. 26.
The Bulldogs should benefit from the eight-day layoff, as
Veasley’s effort picked up a short-handed team. Leading scorer and
conference player of the year Gordon Hayward (15.8 points per game)
sat out to rest a bad back. Starting forward Matt Howard played
despite a stomach ailment and finished with 17 points and seven
“Just an unbelievable effort by a group of guys that have great
resolve,” Stevens said.
Hayward’s season-high 25 points came in a 73-66 victory at
Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Jan. 31. Butler also beat the Panthers 80-67
at home Jan. 2, when sophomore guard Shelvin Mack scored a
Those wins improved the Bulldogs to 7-1 against
Wisconsin-Milwaukee since an 87-71 loss in the conference
championship game on March 7, 2006.
For all its regular-season success, Butler is seeking some
postseason redemption after getting upset 57-54 by Cleveland State
in last year’s title game. The Bulldogs won’t have to worry about a
rematch, as Wisconsin-Milwaukee (20-13) ousted the fifth-seeded
Vikings 82-75 in a Friday night quarterfinal matchup.
The Panthers have won 20 games for the first time since the
2005-06 team that beat Butler for the conference title in coach Rob
Jeter’s first season.
Jeter’s current club appears to be playing its best ball at the
right time, as Friday’s victory was its seventh in the last eight
games. Wisconsin-Milwaukee showed great balance on offense as
Anthony Hill and Ja’Rob McCallum scored 14 points apiece to lead
seven Panthers in double figures.
The Panthers shot 55.3 percent from the field overall and went 8
of 14 from 3-point range.
The winner of this contest will face either No. 2 seed Wright
State or seventh-seeded Detroit in the championship game Tuesday