The Butler men’s basketball team officially began its 2010-11 season in front of nearly 5,500 fans at Hinkle Fieldhouse Oct. 30.
The Bulldogs defeated Florida Southern 90-70 in its first of two exhibition games this season.
Senior forward Matt Howard led all scorers with 19 points and hauled in seven rebounds as Butler knocked off the Moccasins.
Florida Southern, nationally ranked fifth in Division II, offered a tough test in the first half. Despite being without senior Rion Rayfield, last season’s second leading scorer, the Mocs connected on seven of their first nine shots and led, 15-14, six minutes into the game.
Howard immediately sparked a Bulldog run, though, scoring six straight points and putting Butler on top for good.
“We played a team that actually had one of its better players out,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “That is just a testament to how good of a team they are. They will have a great season.”
Stevens started a lineup that included big men Howard and sophomore Andrew Smith, for which the undersized Mocs had no answer and struggled to guard.
Collectively, Howard and Smith contributed 28 points and 11 rebounds.
“Those two guys have done a great job so far and have played well together,” Stevens said. “In practice, it has consistently been one of our better lineups.”
Howard, who often found himself in foul trouble last season, was only called for two personal fouls and played 23 minutes, second only to junior point guard Ronald Nored’s 27.
“I was pretty nice to the refs in pregame,” Howard said jokingly when asked about not being called for many fouls. “I think it carried over.”
During the 2010 NCAA tournament, the Bulldogs created a reputation for tenacious defense, leading to low-scoring games.
But the different lineups and youth on the floor meant Butler struggled to cap Florida Southern’s scoring.
Two of the Mocs, senior Brandon Jenkins and junior Andre Hawkins, scored 16 points, and senior Terry Jenkins scored 13.
Although the Bulldogs forced 15 turnovers, Nored was not pleased with Butler’s defensive performance.
“Defensively, I think we have a lot to build on,” Nored said. “That is something we need to take personally.
“Our defense leads to our offense. It starts on the defensive end.”
Nored lived by those words during the game, collecting two steals, dishing five assists and scoring 14 points.
Every Bulldog saw action in the game, including the squad’s three freshmen—Erik Fromm, Khyle Marshall and Chrishawn Hopkins.
Hopkins was a perfect three-for-three from the field and finished with six points. Fromm and Marshall struggled and shot a combined one-for-10.
“I believe in the law of averages,” Stevens said. “I think Fromm will be happy very soon. Those shots will start to fall.”
Butler saw strong play from the guard position.
Senior Shawn Vanzant’s athleticism supported Nored well in the back court and senior Zach Hahn brought offense from the bench, finishing three-for-three from behind the arc.
The Bulldogs look to improve upon their opening performance when they host Hanover at Hinkle in their final exhibition game. The game begins at 7 p.m. Thursday.