Evansville-Butler Preview

BY foxsports • December 21, 2012

The last thing Butler needs is to suffer a letdown following its latest marquee victory.

Back in the Top 25 for the first time in more than two years, the No. 19 Bulldogs look for a sixth straight win while trying to avoid a third consecutive loss to visiting Evansville on Saturday.

Butler (8-2) takes the court for the first time since Alex Barlow's 6-foot jumper with 2.4 seconds left led to an 88-86 overtime win over previously top-ranked Indiana last Saturday in downtown Indianapolis. Winners of five straight since a 78-61 loss to then-unranked Illinois in Maui on Nov. 21, the Bulldogs moved into the Top 25 for the first time since Nov. 15, 2010.

The national runner-up in 2010 and 2011 before missing the NCAA tournament in 2012, Butler also has wins over Marquette, then-No. 9 North Carolina and Northwestern this season. Even with the early success, the Bulldogs remain cautiously confident.

"The coaches do tell us all the time that we can beat anyone on any given day, but they also tell us we can get beaten on any given night," said the sophomore Barlow, who finished with a career-high six points after scoring 18 in his previous 24 collegiate games. "I'm not going to say we expected to win (against Indiana), but it was not a surprise to us.''

The Bulldogs have averaged 82.6 points and shot 49.8 percent since shooting a season-low 36.1 percent against the Fighting Illini. They held Indiana, which came in shooting 51.5 percent to a season-worst 42.9 and their 40-38 advantage on the boards marked the first time the Hoosiers were outrebounded. Senior Rotnei Clarke - Butler's leader at 17.5 points per game - scored 19 and Roosevelt Jones added season highs with 16 and 12 rebounds, but coach Brad Stevens was not entirely pleased with his team's overall performance.

"My biggest thing is that we didn't play perfect,'' he said. "So we put together a what-if video, a video of about 15 plays that if they had gone the other way, we wouldn't be as happy."

Stevens' squad has had a week to fine-tune things and expects to be at the top of its game against Evansville (7-4).

Butler was riding a seven-game series winning streak before the Purple Aces left Hinkle Fieldhouse with a 71-68 overtime win Nov. 27, 2010. Evansville overcame a 13-point second-half deficit to win 80-77 in overtime last season at home.

Averaging 18.0 points despite shooting 34.8 percent in three games versus Butler, Evansville star Colt Ryan scored 14 of his 23 at the free-throw line where he tied the game with 0.9 seconds last year. Butler's Andrew Smith missed two free throws on the ensuing possession and also was stripped in overtime by Ryan, who converted that steal into the go-ahead basket.

Ryan (12.4 ppg), who missed two games with a hip injury, averaged 18.8 in his first four December games before scoring seven in 21 minutes of a 103-69 win over Division II Oakland City on Tuesday.

Freshman reserve guard D.J. Balentine has averaged 15.2 points while going 16 of 30 from 3-point range over the last five games for the Aces.

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