Butler men’s basketball bounced back well from their loss at Louisville thanks to the 19 points of junior guard Shelvin Mack and the double-double of senior forward Matt Howard.
The No. 16/No. 18 Bulldogs (2-1) trounced in-state foe Ball State (2-1), 88-55, on Nov. 20.
“I told my staff during halftime that the neatest thing about this game is knowing that we have good character,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “We were able to rebound from a tough week.”
Mack scored 12 of his game-leading 19 in the first half, and two buckets early led the Bulldogs on a 20-6 run to secure control of the game.
Howard was steady throughout, contributing 16 points and 10 rebounds in 25 minutes of work.
Also, for the third time in three games this season, all 14 players saw action. Junior guard Shawn Vanzant was the most productive of the nine bench players, scoring 11 points in his 23 minutes.
“One of the reasons I had him come off the bench is because I wanted to have him guard Berry right when he checked into the game,” Stevens said. “I wanted to make sure [Berry] didn’t get going, and Shawn sure did that.”
Cardinals’ freshman guard Jesse Berry has become one of Ball State’s main scoring threats in his short three-game career. He finished the game with eight points on one-of-four shooting.
Another key part of Butler’s success was shutting down Ball State sophomore guard Jauwan Scaife. In the Cardinals’ first two games this season, Scaife scored a combined 45 points, including a 26-point effort versus Eastern Illinois.
Butler junior guard Ronald Nored was given the assignment of defending Scaife for most of the night and limited Scaife to eight points.
Ball State head coach Billy Taylor gave credit to Butler’s tenacious defense.
“They certainly knew that Jauwan is a very good shooter and they were chasing him off of every screen,” Taylor said. “Same for Jesse. They were going to be relentless and make it a point to be there on the catch.”
Malik Perry led the Cardinals with 13 points, all of which came in the second half.
Ball State, projected by ESPN to win the MAC West conference, was bothered by Butler’s defense all afternoon and shot 25.9% from the field in the first half. Coach Brad Stevens commented on his team’s dominating performance just five days after losing to Louisville.
“I thought Ball State was good, and I’m really surprised that we won like we did,” Stevens said. “I thought Louisville was good and I was surprised that we weren’t more in the game.
“The old adage is that you’re never as good as you think you are, and you’re never as bad as you think you are,” Stevens added. “You’re pretty close to being both, so you better do things the right way and try to be as good as you can be.”
The Bulldogs travel to Loudonville, New York on Tuesday (Nov. 23) to play Siena (1-2) in what will be a rematch of last season’s BracketBuster game. The contest will be televised locally on WNDY-TV 23, with covering starting at 7 p.m. EDT.