Men’s basketball: Bulldogs win home opener

The Butler men’s basketball team defeated Chattanooga 57-46 yesterday to pick up its first regular season win following the unveiling of a celebratory banner.

Former Butler players Shelvin Mack, Zach Hahn and Grant Leiendecker were on hand for the revealing of a banner recognizing the Bulldogs’ run to a second consecutive Final Four.

On a night that was all about Butler, the Mocs (0-2) did their best to spoil the Bulldogs’ party.

“We challenged our guys before the game, and I thought we responded,” Chattanooga coach John Shulman said. “We played as hard as we’ve played since we went to the NCAA Tournament.”

After controlling the opening tip, the Mocs’ tough defense and opportunistic offense gave the Bulldogs (1-1) fits.

Butler went to halftime with a 28-27 lead. The team was led by sophomore guard Chrishawn Hopkins, who scored 11 points and also added three assists in 19 minutes of play.

The Bulldogs immediately attacked the Mocs in the second half, with senior guard Ronald Nored converting on a lay up 14 seconds in.
Butler held a 45-40 advantage with 12 minutes left in the game before going cold on offense.

During the next nine minutes, the Bulldogs would score just four points.

Junior guard Chase Stigall finally broke the drought with a 3-point basket from the left side with two minutes left.

Prior to sinking that shot, Stigall had missed all nine of his attempts from behind the arc in regular season action.

Junior center Andrew Smith led the team with 16 points and ten rebounds, recording his first double-double of the young season.

“I thought we played pretty well on the defensive end,” Smith said. “Guys stepped up and hit shots when we needed them to.”

Hopkins also made a significant contribution with 12 points and five assists. Stigall contributed seven points in 31 minutes of play.

As a team, the Bulldogs shot a porous 57 percent from the free throw line and 27 percent from behind the arc.

“It probably didn’t meet a lot of people’s desires,” coach Brad Stevens said. “We’re going to have to get a lot better in a lot of areas, but I was really pleased with that win.”

Chattanooga senior guard Ricky Taylor led all Moc scorers with 13 points, closely followed by senior forward Omar Wattad, who tallied 10 points.

Four days ago, the Bulldogs opened the regular season with an 80-77 overtime loss at Evansville.

A crowd of nearly 9,500 turned out for the first game inside Evansville’s new $127 million Ford Center.

Led by 11 first-half points from Hopkins, Butler took a 37-28 lead into halftime.

Hopkins finished with a team-high 22 points in his first collegiate start.

The Purple Aces (1-0) responded in the second half by tightening up on the defensive end, forcing Butler to settle for long jump shots.

Photo by Maria Porter

The result was a four-minute scoring drought for Butler and an 11-0 run for Evansville, tying the game at 54.

Evansville junior guard Colt Ryan made a layup with 44 seconds left to pull the  Aces within one.

Ryan led all scorers with 23 points, including 14 from the free throw line. Evansville tallied 32 points off free throws, eight more than Butler even attempted.

Ryan drew a foul with less than a second remaining, hitting one of two free throws and tying the game at 69.

With nine-tenths of a second remaining, Butler junior center Emerson Kampen threw a full-court pass to Andrew Smith, who made a layup as time expired.

“Three or four times a week, we run situations at the end of practice, and one of those situations is exactly what happened,” Kampen said.

However, upon review, the referees ruled that Smith had been fouled before going into his shooting motion.

Smith’s basket was nullified, and he missed the ensuing pair of free throws, sending the game to overtime.

Led by Ryan, the Aces never trailed in extra time.

Butler will host Louisville on Saturday in a non-conference contest.

The Cardinals (2-0) will look for a repeat of last season’s 88-73 drubbing of the Bulldogs.

The game will begin at 2 p.m.

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