No. 12 Butler routs Wright St. 70-45Mar 10, 2010 - 9:12 AM By MICHAEL MAROT AP Sports Writer
INDIANAPOLIS(AP) -- No. 12 Butler insists the real work is just beginning.
After winning 20 straight games, cruising to the Horizon League regular-season title and routing second-seeded Wright State 70-45 for the conference tournament title Tuesday night, the Bulldogs suddenly have bigger aspirations.
Among them: extending the nation's longest winning streak. They'll get to try that in next week's NCAA tournament.
"It's pretty good, but I hope the guys aren't happy with this, that they don't want this to be the highlight of their year," tournament MVP Matt Howard said. "So I don't know when we're going to practice again, but I hope when we get back, they've got a bigger goal and a bigger vision in mind."
Clearly, the Bulldogs (28-4) want to prove they're a worthy foe in the 65-team NCAA field.
Butler hasn't lost since Dec. 22 at Alabama-Birmingham. Its latest victory was every bit as one-sided as the Bulldogs' rampage through the Horizon League. They head into NCAA play as the only Division I team to complete a perfect conference season, going 20-0 against league foes including the two tournament games.
Howard, last season's Horizon League player of the year, had 14 points and nine rebounds. Shelvin Mack scored all 14 of his points, including four 3-pointers, in the first half. Zach Hahn came off the bench to score 11 points, and Gordon Hayward, this season's conference player of the year, had eight points and four rebounds.
The game was so lopsided coach Brad Stevens allowed only one Butler player to log more than 30 minutes, and the final 15 minutes felt more like a coronation than a celebration.
It was exactly how Butler envisioned finishing this season after spending the past 12 months reliving those agonizing memories from the loss to Cleveland State in last year's final.
Now there's a new mission for the Bulldogs, who bowed out to LSU in the first round last season.
"If we prepare well, I think we can pretty dangerous," Butler guard Ronald Nored said. "I thought last year in the tournament LSU made some tougher plays than we did. We didn't play great and we only lost by four, so I think those kind of plays in the tournament will separate you."
Only one player for Wright State (20-12) reached double figures. N'Gai Evans had 13 points, but Todd Brown, who is in Wright State's 1,000-point club, was shut out.
How bad was it?
"I apologize we didn't play better," Raiders coach Brad Brownell said. "We're a better team than we showed tonight, but certainly Butler was playing at a high level. Any time you get behind against them, it's really hard and makes it really challenging for you to come back."
Butler took charge right from the start.
The Bulldogs set the tone in the first three minutes when Mack opened the game with two straight 3-pointers and Howard followed that with a three-point play.
Mack's third 3 gave Butler a 17-9 lead just eight minutes into the game, and the Bulldogs extended the halftime to margin to 42-28. Butler's eight 3s coupled with Howard's two three-point plays in the first half accounted for 30 points.
And the Bulldogs were only getting started.
They made it 51-30 when Hahn hit a 3 with 15:35 left in the game, and then cranked up the defensive pressure.
Wright State scored only 17 points in the final 20 minutes, not nearly enough to prevent Butler from taking the conference's automatic NCAA bid.
"One of the things that's neat about this run is that they've brought it every single night and in games where, quite frankly, people would really get on them if they lost and they don't care," Stevens said after high-fiving his players. "These guys just believe in doing the right things."
- HORIZON CHAMPIONSHIP
AT INDIANAPOLIS, IN
NCAA BB FINAL 1ST 2ND TOTAL
--- --- -----
WRIGHT STATE 28 17 45
BUTLER (12) 42 28 70 FINAL
HIGH SCORERS: WRIGHT STATE - N'GAI EVANS 13, CORY COOPERWOOD 9,
VAUGHN DUGGINS 9
BUTLER - MATT HOWARD 14, SHELVIN MACK 14,
ZACH HAHN 11
Mar 9 10:53 PM
- HORIZON CHAMPIONSHIP
AT INDIANAPOLIS, IN
NCAA BB WRIGHT ST 28
BUTLER (12) 42 HALFTIME
Mar 9 9:52 PM
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