Junior Shelvin Mack had a game-high 20 points as Butler defeated the Marian Knights, 83-54, to the season opener of their 2010-11 campaign.
Almost 7,000 fans showed up to watch the game, including pregame festivities, which included the unveiling of the banner commemorating last season’s run to the Final Four. Fans from both sides cheered as the banner was unveiled.
Butler (1-0) played well on both sides of the ball to notch the victory.
Offensively, the Bulldogs shot just more than 53 percent from the field.
En route to his 20 points, Mack hit nine-of-14 attempts and grabbed four rebounds.
Senior forward Matt Howard contributed six points and seven rebounds. Howard, who was notorious for getting into foul trouble last season, did not record a single foul in his 23 minutes of work.
Bulldog fans were looking forward to seeing highly desired recruit Khyle Marshall play, and the freshman shined in his collegiate debut. He went four-for-five from the field on his way to nine points. Marshall showcased his athleticism with two dunks and an explosive rejection in the second half, which got Hinkle Fieldhouse’s crowd on its feet.
Defensively, Butler forced 16 turnovers while only committing six. The Bulldogs converted those Marian mistakes into 17 points.
Junior point guard Ronald Nored led Butler with four steals and Mack followed close behind with three.
Marian (0-1) closed the first half with a 9-0 run to cut Butler’s lead to 42-28.
But the Bulldogs stormed out of the gate following intermission on the back of Mack’s seven-point showcase, which included a 22-footer from behind the arc.
That shot sparked an 11-2 Bulldog run, signaling a change in momentum from which Marian was never able to recover.
“The way we defended in the second half was pretty good,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “Especially through the first 15 minutes of the second half.”
In similar fashion to the two exhibition games, Stevens utilized his team’s depth. All 14 Bulldogs received playing time, and 12 found themselves in the scoring column.
Butler’s bench outscored Marian’s 40-27.
The Bulldogs’ three freshmen, Marshall, guard Crishawn Hopkins and forward Erik Fromm, played 32 minutes collectively and contributed 17 points.
Junior forward Garrett Butcher got the nod instead of sophomore center Andrew Smith in the starting lineup. Butcher contributed four points and one rebound, while Smith added ten points and four boards off the bench.
Stevens addressed the battle for the fifth starting spot alongside Mack, Howard, Nored and junior guard Shawn Vanzant.
“Starting is certainly important to an extent, but it shouldn’t be important to our guys because it is fairly inconsequential,” Stevens said. “We are going to find the right matchups for each game and move forward in that way.”
Marian head coach John Grimes, who is entering his 35th season with the Knights, has seen plenty of teams throughout the years, including last season’s Bulldog squad.
“They have the potential to be better than they were last year,” Grimes said. “They have a little more quickness and maybe a little more offensive firepower.
“The difficult thing is the depth they’re going to have to develop.”
Grimes said that he and his team had a lot of respect for what Butler did last season.
“I think my players all appreciated the fact that we were here for a certain occasion,” Grimes said. “We really appreciate having this opportunity because they could have had anybody here today.”
The Bulldogs resume play Nov. 16 at the University of Louisville. The game will mark the first contest inside Louisville’s new $238 million KFC Yum! Center. It will be televised on ESPN at 8 p.m. EDT.
I was very disappointed by the teams actions on tuesday vs Louisville. Continuing to foul that late into the game makes the team look pathetic. I decided I don’t like your coach anymore. I will no longer cheer for the underdog. I hope you drop out of the top 25 and go back to the NIT where you belong.