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Howard, Butler clinch share of Horizon League title

Feb 27, 2009 - 2:47 AM INDIANAPOLIS (Ticker) -- The third time proved to be the charm for Butler.

Matt Howard had 25 points and 10 rebounds and freshman Gordon Hayward scored 14 as the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs clinched a share of the Horizon League title with a 78-57 victory over Youngstown State on Thursday.

Butler (24-4, 14-3 Horizon), which had lost its two previous league games, can clinch the outright crown with a win over Cleveland State on Saturday. The Bulldogs have had at least a share of the regular-season title each of the last three seasons.

The Bulldogs, who never trailed, shot 55 percent (28-of-51) from the field as they posted their seventh straight victory against the Penguins.

Howard scored six early points as Butler held an 11-3 lead with 15:29 left in the first half.

The Penguins got back within three midway through the half but Howard continued to score inside and his layup made it a 29-20 score with 4:56 to play before the break. Howard finished with 14 first-half points as Butler took a 38-28 lead into the locker rooms.

Butler kept Youngstown State at bay and Willie Veasley capped an 8-0 run with a three-point play, giving the Bulldogs a 46-32 lead with 15:35 remaining.

Youngstown cut the deficit to single digits but Butler put the game away with a 10-0 burst to take a 56-37 bulge with 11:12 to play. Howard scored four points and Shawn Vanzant made a pair of 3-pointers during the run and the Penguins never threatened the rest of the way.

Sirlester Martin scored 15 points to pace Youngstown State (11-17, 7-10).