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Butler-Youngstown St. Preview

Feb 10, 2010 - 8:15 PM By KATE HEDLIN STATS Writer

Butler (21-4) at Youngstown State (8-15), 7:05 p.m. EDT

With a win in its next game, Butler can make official what has seemed inevitable for some time now.

The 18th-ranked Bulldogs look to clinch the Horizon League title outright Thursday when they go for their ninth straight win over Youngstown State.

Butler (21-4, 14-0) has put together another dominating season in the Horizon and clinched a share of its fourth straight conference title with a 62-47 win over Loyola of Chicago on Monday - its 13th consecutive victory overall.

The Bulldogs are the only undefeated team in league play and the only one with fewer than four losses. With a victory Thursday, they would have the best start in conference play by any Horizon team since Wisconsin-Green Bay began 16-0 in 1995-96.

"We haven't won it yet in our eyes," coach Brad Stevens said. "You always like to win it outright, but to be there on the doorstep and have a chance to do that, I'm proud of our guys."

The Bulldogs didn't make things easy on themselves Monday, winning despite shooting 36.4 percent and trailing at the half. They held the Ramblers to 35.4 percent shooting, however, and went on a 19-5 run after Loyola took a 28-24 lead early in the second half.

Butler plays three of its final four conference games on the road, where it's won six in a row.

"This team is looking for more," said Matt Howard, who scored a game-high 20 points against Loyola. "If we're going to keep progressing, it's got to be 40 minutes of basketball to get to where we want to be."

Gordon Hayward will look to bounce back after he was held to his lowest-scoring total in seven games, shooting 4 of 11 for eight points. Hayward, who averages 15.7 points, struggled in a 91-61 win over Youngstown State on Jan. 16, scoring a season-low seven points. Shelvin Mack finished with 24 in the victory.

Butler has won eight straight over Youngstown State by an average of 16.7 points since a 64-62 road loss Jan. 21, 2006. Howard is averaging 20.4 points and 7.2 rebounds in five games against the Penguins.

Youngstown State (8-15, 2-11) has lost three in a row - all on the road. It's coming off a 74-68 defeat to Illinois-Chicago on Saturday in which it was held to 38.2 percent shooting and committed 18 turnovers.

DeAndre Mays scored 22 points and Vytas Sulskis added 21 off the bench, helping the Penguins go on a 23-9 run to pull within three after they trailed by 17. The Flames, however, kept them from getting any closer.

Sirlester Martin, one of four Youngstown State players averaging in double figures, was held to four points in 16 minutes as he continues to struggle with consistency. After averaging 12.5 points over the first 17 games, he's averaging 8.0 in the last six. Martin scored a season-high 23 against Butler last month.