The Butler men’s basketball team will need to find their way out of the doghouse after losing their second overtime game in six days.
Hoping to recover from their home loss against Milwaukee, the Bulldogs (14-8, 6-4 HL) found themselves in a similar predicament in their next conference game.
“We never dwell on a loss,” freshman forward Khyle Marshall said when asked how his team responded to the disappointing outcome of the Milwaukee game. “We just get right back at it, learn the team and go out with a focus to improve on what we did wrong the game before.”
On the road facing the conference-leading Valparaiso Crusaders, the Bulldogs got off to a hot start.
They snatched the upper hand in the first half and led by as many as eight points, although that lead was cut to five by halftime.
Things looked promising for Butler in the early minutes of the second half, as the Bulldogs went on a 9-0 run, brought on by eight consecutive points from senior guard Zach Hahn. Butler took its biggest lead of the game, 40-31, with 15:50 remaining.
Unfortunately, the Crusaders rebutted as senior forward Ryan Broekhoff gave Valpo its biggest lead of the game, 66-58, with a three-point field goal with 3:29 left.
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs stormed back with a 9-1 closing run, sparked by senior guard Shawn Vanzant and junior guard Ronald Nored.
However, Butler struggled late, allowing a nine-point lead to slip away in the final three-and-a-half minutes of regulation.
Valparaiso senior guard Brandon Wood led the Crusaders’ charge, stopped only by Butler senior forward Matt Howard’s game-tying three-point play with 30 seconds remaining.
Neither team was able to take an advantage and the game ran into overtime.
“I feel that a team should always already be prepared to head into overtime,” Butler head coach Brad Stevens said. “Overtime is about recognizing the job that needs to be done and executing at the right time.”
The Crusaders grabbed the lead in overtime on a layup by senior guard Matt Kenney and a 3-point field goal by Broekhoff.
Butler was unable to successfully play catch-up, allowing the Crusaders to clinch the victory and remain in the league lead. The loss dropped the Bulldogs to fourth in the standings.
“We need that defensive edge back,” Howard said. “I felt that we did some really good things on both the offensive and defensive sides of the game, but we really misread some of their players and gave up a few too many good possessions.”
Despite the loss, the Bulldogs will be back on the road Thursday to play Youngstown State, followed by Cleveland State on Saturday.
“We have to worry about getting there first, with the airports closed and the roads in such bad shape,” Stevens said. “But once there, we’ll be ready to get back on track.
“These games are essential, and it’s important that we take advantage of them heading towards the last quarter of the season.”