After losing at Wright State on Sunday, the Butler Bulldogs responded with an 81-75 conference win over the Phoenix of Green Bay.
Senior Matt Howard scored 29 points and hauled in a career-high 16 rebounds to help Butler (14-6, 6-2) hold off a late second half comeback by the Phoenix.
The Bulldogs got out to a 4-2 lead to only to see Green Bay (10-10, 4-4) string together a 20-9 run and take a commanding lead.
Three-point specialist Zach Hahn turned the tables midway through the first half when he connected on a trey from the top of the key. Thirty seconds later, another long ball from Hahn found the bottom of the net and cut Green Bay’s lead to just three.
Around the five minute mark, junior Shelvin Mack converted a steal into a breakaway layup, causing the Hinkle Fieldhouse crowd to rise to its feet. Butler would never trail again.
The Bulldogs went into halftime with a secure 40-32 lead after Khyle Marshall’s dunk managed to beat the buzzer.
Midway through the second half, a pair of former high school teammates hooked up to give the Bulldogs their largest lead of the game (21) when Zach Hahn found Chase Stigall open for three.
However, the Phoenix refused to go down without a fight. Senior guard Rahmon Fletcher, who was held without a field goal in the first half, scored 17 second half points to lead Green Bay back to within three.
With just 41 seconds to play, an arrant pass off a Butler inbound resulted in Fletcher getting a clean look to tie the game. His shot rimmed out, Matt Howard secured the rebound and the Bulldogs sealed the victory at the free throw line.
While the Phoenix showed true grit in fighting back, the story of the game was Butler’s Matt Howard, who played a team-high 34 minutes and pulled down eight offensive rebounds.
“I’m glad he’s a senior,” Green Bay’s first-year head coach Brian Wardle said. “Not many players have the kind of motor that Howard does. He never stops playing and that’s what makes him a great player.”
Noted for his terrific inside game, fans and opponents were not accustomed to Howard shooting the long ball last season, however, heading into the game, he was leading the Horizon League in three point percentage. Howard commented on his role on this year’s Bulldog squad.
“From a mentality standpoint, I don’t feel like I’m playing a whole lot different,” Howard said. “I’m just trying to do whatever it takes to make our team successful.”
The 6’8” senior, now seventh on Butler’s all-time scoring list, has been a crucial component of Butler basketball during head coach Brad Steven’s tenure.
“He’s in the conversation of the best ever here at Butler,” Stevens said. “It’s going to be a tough day for me to see him go.”