Butler grabs Diamond Head title on Christmas

Butler’s 84-68 win against Washington State on Christmas night was the Bulldogs’ fifth consecutive win this season and the first championship in a Hawaiian tournament in the program’s three tries.

The Bulldogs (9-4, 1-0 HL) will take that winning streak into a six-day break before beginning the bulk of Horizon League play.

The tournament championship against the Cougars (10-2) was truly a team effort. Eight different Bulldogs scored in the game, four of which scored at least 14 points.

Furthermore, Butler shot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from behind the arc.

Senior forward Matt Howard was as consistent as ever, notching his fifth double-double of the season on 14 points and 11 rebounds.

Howard’s consistency earned him the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award in a tournament that saw the likes of Florida State’s Chris Singleton and No. 15 Baylor’s LaceDarius Dunn.

Junior guard Shelvin Mack also made the all-tournament team and led Butler in scoring with 20 points on eight-of-13 shooting from the field.

Mack, viewed as the team’s shooting guard, played point guard for most of the second half, which may have conjured up some déjà vu for any who watched him lead the USA Under-20 men’s basketball team to a gold medal last summer.

Sophomore center Andrew Smith used his 7-foot frame to rebound well as usual, but he also ran the court and worked the paint well, leading to a career-best 14 points on five-of-five shooting and four-of-five free throw shooting.

Senior guard Zach Hahn, known for his 3-point shooting, had not hit a long-range field goal during the first two games of the tournament and the same held true after the first half against the Cougars.

But Hahn found himself in the middle of the second half, hitting two consecutive 3-pointers and a layup to complete a one-man 8-0 run. He would go on to add another 3-pointer and four free throws to round out a 14-point night.

Before Hahn temporarily took over, sophomore guard Chase Stigall was the long-range threat from the corner.

Stigall’s trio of 3-pointers kept Butler competitive when Washington State double-teamed Mack or Cougar junior Klay Thompson had just scored any of his 31 points.

Horizon League games are all that remain for the Bulldogs, and in-state rival Valparaiso (9-4, 2-0 HL) will be the first of Butler’s 17 remaining opponents.

The Crusaders will play the Bulldogs on New Year’s Day in Hinkle Fieldhouse at 2 p.m. EDT.

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