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Butler celebrates return home with thumping of Illinois-Chicago

Feb 14, 2009 - 5:34 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- Matt Howard made Butler's return home a perfect affair.

Howard had 19 points and eight rebounds as No. 15 Butler continued to roll through the Horizon League, posting an 80-61 victory over Illinois-Chicago on Friday.

Freshman Gordon Hayward scored 18 points and Zach Hahn added 15 for the Bulldogs (22-2, 13-1 Horizon), who remained perfect at Hinkle Fieldhouse, improving to 12-0 this season.

Butler has won its last 16 home games.

In their first game back after a three-game road trip, the Bulldogs clicked from the start, shooting 50 percent (13-of-26) with five 3-pointers in taking a 38-26 lead at the half.

"I thought our guys came out and played good basketball tonight," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "We handled ourselves well."

Howard led the way making all four of his shots in the first half en route to ending up 7-of-7. Butler's second-leading scorer also converted all seven of his free throws in reaching double figures for just the second time in six games.

Hayward had seven points in the opening 6 1/2 minutes as Butler took a 12-5 lead. That cushion was extended to 25-8 with 7:51 remaining behind a 13-1 run. Hahn connected on three of his five 3-pointers during the burst.

Overall, the Bulldogs went 13-of-32 from the arc in beating the Flames for the sixth straight time.

Chicago-Illinois cut that deficit to seven points with 16:46 to play, but Butler responded with a 13-2 run. Freshman Shelvin Mack made both of his 3-pointers during the spurt on the way to finishing with 12 points.

The Flames, who were without coach Jimmy Collins who was attending his mother's funeral, got no closer than eight thereafter.

"Butler shot it great," said Mark Coomes, Chicago-Illinois' acting coach. "Our zone didn't hold up real good and Hayward nailed it. Hahn was excellent off the bench, and they're a very physical team with each player, without fouling. They really keep their hands off you."

Josh Mayo scored 19 points for Chicago-Illinois (11-14, 4-11), which lost for the sixth time in seven games.

Jeremy Buttell added four points and 10 rebounds for the Flames, who were outscored in the paint, 24-14.