Another roller coaster weekend for men’s basketball

The Butler men’s basketball team continued its up and down season by picking up a win against Horizon League-leading Cleveland State and dropping a contest to Youngstown State. The Bulldogs (15-9, 7-5 HL) will face off against UIC at home Monday to close out a stretch of three games in five days.

On Saturday, Butler, led by senior Matt Howard’s 14 points, completed a season sweep of the Vikings (21-4, 10-3 HL) with a 73-61 victory.

The win ended a 3-game losing streak for Butler, who responded well following the loss at Youngstown State on Thursday night.

“When you lose three straight, two in overtime and one by two points, you can feel like you’re a long way away, and I think these guys did a great job of staying focused and staying together,” head coach Brad Stevens said. “It’s hard to do that when things aren’t going your way.”

The Bulldogs struggled out of the gate, falling behind 16-8 early in the match. Despite the slow start, Butler found itself up by four heading into the locker room, thanks to a balanced scoring attack. Seniors Shawn Vanzant and Zach Hahn, sophomore Andrew Smith and freshman Khyle Marshall all put up six points each in the first half.

Cleveland State pushed the Bulldogs throughout the second half, tying the game several times. However, Howard put the game away with a three-pointer that gave Butler a 10-point lead with just under five minutes remaining.

The Bulldogs had five players finish with double digit points. Along with Howard’s 14, Smith finished with 13, Marshall tallied 12, junior Shelvin Mack scored 11 and Vanzant put up 10.

Butler’s victory snapped a 13-game home winning streak and a 6-game overall winning streak for Cleveland State. The Vikings were led by junior Jeremy Montgomery, who finished with a game-high 18 points.

The win over Cleveland State was just what the Bulldogs needed after their fifth conference loss of the season against Youngstown State on Thursday.

Butler failed to close out the game against the Penguins (8-15, 2-11 HL), losing an 8-point lead with less than four minutes remaining and ultimately losing the game 62-60.

The win was Youngstown State’s second conference victory of the season. Down 60-52 late, the Penguins went on a 10-0 run. The final points of the run were scored by freshman Kendrick Perry, who sunk the game-winning 3-point shot with 21 seconds remaining.

“We probably got tentative rather than attacking,” Stevens said. “They [the Penguins] were kind of playing free and they made all those shots.”

As in the contest against Cleveland State, the Bulldogs had a tough start and ended up down by a 25-22 margin at the half.

Butler kept the game close in the second half, eventually taking a 44-42 advantage. Mack then led the Bulldogs on a 13-5 run, putting them up 57-47 with close to five minutes remaining. It didn’t prove to be enough for Butler, who could muster only three more points the rest of the way.

Mack led the Bulldogs with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Howard contributed 12 points and a blocked shot. Smith also cracked double digits with 11 points.

Butler will now be preparing for a home game against UIC. This will be the first meeting of the season between the Bulldogs and the Flames (6-18, 1-11 HL).

The game will take place on Monday at Hinkle Fieldhouse at 7 pm.

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