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Butler struggles, but pulls away late from Florida Gulf Coast

Dec 23, 2007 - 5:10 AM FORT MEYERS, Florida (Ticker) -- It took longer than expected, but Butler finally did pull away from Florida Gulf Coast.

A.J. Graves scored 17 points and Mike Green added 16 as the 18th-ranked Bulldogs posted a 78-66 victory over the Eagles on Saturday.

Julian Betko chipped in 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from the arc for the Bulldogs, who shot 26-of-28 (93 percent) from the foul line for the game.

Florida Gulf Coast (3-9) wasn't supposed to give Butler much of a challenge as the Eagles are in their first season as a Division I program.

However, Butler (11-1) had all it could handle for most of the game and led by only two points with over four minutes to play.

But Butler ended the game on a 14-4 run, going 6-of-6 from the foul line to help secure its third straight victory. Graves made four free throws during the run and Drew Streicher threw down a dunk that gave the Bulldogs a 72-64 lead with just over one minute to play.

The starting backcourt of Graves and Green finished 17-of-18 from the foul line, while Green added six rebounds and six assists.

Matt Howard also scored 12 points for Butler, which shot just 8-of-22 from the arc for the game.

Florida Gulf Coast jumped out to an 11-2 lead before Butler came back. Graves made his first 3-pointer of the game that tied the score at 23-23 with just over five minutes left in the first half.

Tied at 33-33 at the half, Butler took an eight-point lead after Betko's fourth 3-pointer of the game with 15:20 to play. However, the Eagles scored the next eight points and after back-to-back 3-pointers by Casey Wohlleb, Florida Gulf Coast had tied the game at 49-49 with just under 14 minutes remaining.

The game was still tied with under 10 minutes to go before the Bulldogs went on a 9-2 spurt. Mike Green's three-point play with 6:24 to go gave Butler a 63-56 advantage.

But the Eagles came back again and Wohlleb made a pair of free throws to cut the deficit to 64-62 with 4:39 to play.

Wohlleb finished with a season-high 24 points for the Eagles, who have lost four straight contests. The senior shot 8-of-16 from the floor, including 4-of-7 from the arc and added five assists.

Florida Gulf Coast shot 50 percent (21-of-42) from the field but were just 17-of-28 (61 percent) from the free-throw line.