MILWAUKEE — No. 22 Butler had a week off to stew about two straight home losses, a stretch during which coach Chris Holtmann was hoping his more experienced players would set an example with hard work during practice.
Seniors Andrew Chrabascz and Avery Woodson stepped up, setting a tone that carried over into a 68-65 victory over Marquette on Tuesday night.
Chrabascz scored 13 of his 21 points in the second half, while Woodson scored 17 points in his first start in more than three weeks for the Bulldogs (19-5, 8-4 Big East).
“This time of year can demand more of your seniors, it just does. It’s that time of year,” Holtmann said. “Those guys demonstrated good stuff in practice. We had some hard, physical and demanding practices.”
Butler held off the Golden Eagles (15-9, 6-6) after tweaking its starting lineup, with regulars Tyler Lewis and Kelan Martin coming off the bench. Kethan Savage joined Woodson in the starting lineup.
Chrabascz stayed in the starting five and gave his team a lift in the closing minutes. He followed two free throws with a layup with 49 seconds left to give Butler an eight-point lead.
“I mean it’s just Coach drawing up good stuff at the end of the game,” Chrabascz said. “Obviously I’ve been through a lot of basketball in my years here. It was the coach and teammates finding me in great opportunities to score the ball.”
Markus Howard had 19 points for Marquette (15-9, 6-6), including a 3 with 1 second left. But the Golden Eagles couldn’t force a turnover on the ensuing inbounds pass for one last shot.
Marquette had an offensive letdown over the last few minutes after better defense helped the Golden Eagles come back from an 11-point deficit late in the first half to take a brief lead midway through the second.
“I thought our guys played with more urgency in the second half. I think that helps your defense,” coach Steve Wojciechowski said. “The story of this game was our offense wasn’t where it needs to be in order to win a game like this.”
Butler: The Bulldogs have never had a three-game losing streak during Holtmann’s three years on the bench. They took a 40-33 lead at halftime behind 15 points in the first half from Woodson before struggling with the ball for stretches of the second half. In the end, Butler got the kind of bounce-back win that Holtmann was looking for following a seven-day layoff.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles were ninth in the 10-team Big East in field goal defense entering the game (45.3 percent). But defense helped Marquette get back into the game. Marquette played more aggressively on the perimeter to start the second half after Butler was 7 of 13 from beyond the 3-point arc before halftime, holding the Bulldogs without a field goal for a 5-minute stretch at one point.
ON THE BENCH
Martin (16.3 points) sat out the entire first half and did not enter until there was 15:35 left the second half. Holtmann declined to give details about why his leading scorer was benched, saying it was an internal decision.
Martin finished with one point and missed all three of his field goal attempts in 10 minutes.
Marquette went more than 4 minutes between field goals before Howard hit a layup with 14 seconds left. Howard also let a few valuable seconds tick off the clock before his 3 with 1 second left.
“We didn’t execute as well down the stretch. That’s something we’re working on but we have to continue to get better,” Wojciechowski said.
Luke Fischer added 19 points and 13 rebounds for Marquette. But the Golden Eagles fell short of knocking off a third straight Top 25 opponent after getting wins last month over Creighton and Villanova.
Butler: Finishes a two-game road swing with a trip to Providence on Saturday.
Marquette: Tries to sweep the season series against Georgetown during a visit to Washington on Saturday.