Butler bounces back against Ball State
This time, Shelvin Mack and Matt Howard stayed in the game.
Turns out, that was all Butler needed to bounce back from that difficult loss at Louisville.
Mack scored 19 points, Howard had 16 points and 10 rebounds and the 16th-ranked Bulldogs beat Ball State 88-55 on Saturday.
''Nobody was thrilled about the results Tuesday night, and I think, looking back, it probably wasn't as poor as it looked,'' coach Brad Stevens said. ''But I think everybody had a desire to play better today.''
Four days after the 15-point setback against the Cardinals, the most lopsided loss in Stevens' four-year tenure, the Bulldogs (2-1) were almost flawless.
They committed only nine turnovers and limited Ball State (2-1) to 32.7 percent shooting. They outrebounded the Cardinals 43-32 and outscored them 40-18 in the paint — discrepancies not normally seen from a team that prefers 3-pointers to dunks.
Butler (2-1) also reaffirmed its in-state dominance. It won its seventh straight in a series that has been played annually since 1950, its 17th in a row against an in-state team and had its largest victory margin since a 44-point shellacking of Indiana-South Bend two years ago.
This one was just plain ugly.
''It was tough for us because we had been playing some really good basketball,'' Ball State coach Billy Taylor said. ''Obviously, they were very hungry after a tough road loss and I was hoping we would play better.''
Howard, the senior who missed most of the first half at Louisville because of foul trouble, played out top more than usual and showed he could post up or drive to the basket. He wound up drawing fouls instead of picking them up and made eight of 10 free throws.
Mack, a junior who fought through leg cramps at Louisville, connected on five of eight shots from the field in the second half and led the Bulldogs in scoring for the third straight game. He also had four assists.
The other Bulldogs took care of their jobs, too. Reserve guard Shawn Vanzant had 11 points and five rebounds, while backup center Andrew Smith had seven points and six rebounds in 18 minutes.
Foul-prone Ball State, the Mid-American Conference's West Division favorite, didn't have any answers.
''I didn't think this game would be what it turned out to be,'' Stevens said. ''I just thought we really played well.''
Butler traded baskets early, then grabbed control with a 10-0 run. Zach Hahn capped the surge with a 3-pointer that made it 19-11 with 11:55 left in the first half.
It was just the start.
Sophomore Jauwan Scaife, the Cardinals' top scorer at 21.5 points, scored only three in the first half and finished with seven. Malik Perry scored all 13 of his points in the second half, and although Ball State was within seven when forward Jarrod Jones drew his second foul with 8:14 left in the half, it was out of it by the time he returned to start the second half.
Stevens substituted freely to take advantage of Ball State's matchup problems and it worked perfectly.
Ball State managed only five points in the last eight minutes of the first half and Butler carried a 38-20 lead into halftime.
''We were in foul trouble during that time as well, so we had some unusual combinations on the floor and we weren't getting our normal shots,'' Taylor said. ''We know what we're supposed to do, we just have to do it better.''
Ball State did make one quick run in the second half, closing to 46-30 with 16:13 remaining. But the Bulldogs answered with a 9-1 spurt.
Butler led by as much as 35 while moving on from its own loss.
''I think any time you have a losing effort, you want to come back and play harder,'' said Mack, who also had seven rebounds. ''What happened Tuesday is over with and don't want to think too much about it.''