Another runaway victory gives Butler a chance to do what it has failed to so far: beat first-place Valparaiso.
The Bulldogs dominated Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the second half Friday to earn a 71-49 victory in the second round of the Horizon League tournament.
Butler (20-13, 12-7) advances to play the Crusaders, 2-0 against the Bulldogs, on their home floor Saturday night.
“Valpo’s the best team in the league,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said.
Against the Panthers, at least on this night, Butler was top dog.
Khyle Marshall and Roosevelt Jones scored 17 points apiece to increase Butler’s conference tournament winning streak to six.
“It’s all or nothing,” Marshall said.
Panthers standout guard Kaylon Williams, held to eight points on 3-for-9 shooting, said the Bulldogs rise to the occasion this time of year.
“They’re a tournament team,” Williams said.
Butler knocked off coach Rob Jeter’s team (20-13, 11-8) for a third consecutive year in post-season play.
“Losing’s losing,” Williams said. “It hurts the same no matter who it is.”
Butler led 22-18 at halftime but quickly pulled ahead by a larger margin in the second half. Chase Stigall swished a three from the top of the key to give the Bulldogs a 42-26 lead with 13:03 to play.
“That was one of our best defensive efforts,” Butler guard Ronald Nored said. “We’re going to have to be ready [Saturday].”
The Bulldogs shot 50 percent and outrebounded Milwaukee 42-23.
“We were so engaged,” Stevens said. “When we started making shots, it all added up.”
Butler went 2-for 12 from 3 but connected on 27 of 46 2-point tries.
Marshall had three dunks. He and Jones finished time and again around the basket.
“Coach Stevens runs plays for me to get those lobs,” Marshall said.
Center Andrew Smith had eight points and seven rebounds. Nored contributed five points, six rebounds and six assists.
Nored became Butler’s all-time record-holder for assists in a single season, passing former Bulldog Mike Green with 176 assists so far.
Center James Haarsma led the Panthers with nine points.
Butler’s game against Valparaiso is set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday. ESPNU will air the contest. The winner will play either Detroit or Cleveland State Tuesday in the Horizon League championship game.