Wis.-Milwaukee-Butler Preview

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

Brad Stevens.

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

rebounds.

“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

career-high 25.

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

night.