MILWAUKEE, WI—In a season when many other Horizon League teams took their best shot at dethroning Butler from the top of the mountain, the Bulldogs are once again champions and will represent the league in next week's NCAA tournament.
The Bulldogs completed a magical nine game run defeating the host Milwaukee Panthers in the Horizon League Championship game 59-44. The Bulldogs never trailed in two league tournament victories over Cleveland State and Milwaukee and have now earned the Horizon's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In many ways, the game was sealed early on, when Butler put a raucous crowd of 10,437 fans in their seats quickly with an offensive and defensive blitz that put the road team in control. Brad Stevens' team raced out to a 23-6 lead and despite a quick Panthers run in the final five minutes, the Bulldogs still took a 33-20 lead into the break.
Milwaukee made a brief second-half run to get back into the game, cutting the deficit to three 42-39, however Butler was able to use their trademark defense to make perhaps their best defensive stand of the season. In the final ten minutes the Bulldogs outscored Milwaukee 17-5 to end the game.
Sophomore Andrew Smith led the way on defense, grabbing ten rebounds but more importantly teaming with Matt Howard to hold high-scoring Anthony Hill to just ten points on 2-of-5 shooting. In two previous games against the Bulldogs, Hill scored 22 and 18 respectively in consecutive wins over Butler.
Howard led the way for the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, putting up a game-high 18 points on 5-of-9 shooting while Shelvin Mack contributed 14 points, including two late second half three pointers that broke the Panthers' back and sent most of the Milwaukee-heavy crowd to the exits before the game was over .