The Butler men’s basketball team, since losing to Duke and Xavier and falling to 4-4, has responded well, winning three straight and two which were nationally televised.
Last night, the Bulldogs (7-4, 1-0 HL) defeated the Utah Utes (7-3), 74-62, in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii. Just four nights before playing in Hawaii, the Bulldogs earned an 83-50 result against Stanford (6-4) at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Senior forward Matt Howard was the premier player in both contests. He combined for 50 points and 16 rebounds in the two games.
First, Howard earned his fourth double-double of the season with 27 points and 10 rebounds against Stanford, in what was the first game ever broadcast by CBS in Hinkle.
Howard scored early and often against the Cardinal. He had 17 in the first half, and his 23 was more than the entire Stanford team had with 15 minutes remaining in the game.
And Howard was just as proficient under the sun as he was in the snow, scoring 23 points against the Utes. Howard was seven-of-16 from the field and converted nine-of-12 from the free throw line.
But the Bulldogs were not a one-man show, as Howard had some help in the two most recent games.
Sophomore center Andrew Smith grabbed five rebounds and scored 10 points against Stanford, missing only one shot the whole game. Smith teamed up with Howard for 23 first-half points, and the two eventually led Butler to 28 points in the paint.
Against the Utes, junior point guard Ronald Nored did what he normally does by getting five assists and a few rebounds, but he also went beyond his role and scored 16 points.
Nored is not known for being a big scorer, or for doing so at the free throw stripe. However, Nored went nine-for-10 on his free throws alongside three-of-four shooting.
To go hand-in-hand with a successful offense, Butler forced turnovers and stagnant possessions from their opponents.
Stanford turned the ball over 13 times and had multiple scoring droughts until the final six minutes at Hinkle. Similarly, Utah turned the ball over 14 times and shot six-of-22 from behind the 3-point arc.
Butler’s next challenge will be Florida State (10-2, 1-0 ACC), who defeated host Hawaii (7-3) last night, 70-62. The game will air on ESPN2 at 10 p.m. EDT.