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Hayward’s star continues to rise


January 23, 2010

Whoosh! photo

Butler sophomore Gordon Hayward scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the first half.

The storyline was simple on Saturday afternoon.

Butler, who came in riding a seven-game winning streak, looked dominant in its quest for perfection in the Horizon League, while struggling UIC played its part as well.

Sophomore sensation Gordon Hayward poured in 25 points on 10-for-16 shooting as the Bulldogs mauled the Flames 84-55 at the UIC Pavilion.

Hayward also had eight rebounds, two blocked shots and two steals for Butler (16-4, 9-0), which entered at No. 20 in the ESPN/USA Today Poll.

“He doesn’t get consumed with anything but what’s important in the game,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “He can impact the game in a lot of ways. He doesn't have to score for us to be successful. His assertiveness in key moments has been huge for us.”

Hayward’s performance looked like an audition for Horizon League Player of the Year honors. He has helped keep the bar high for the Bulldogs.

“I personally don’t want to let the team down when I come in,” Hayward said. “We’ve had so much success over the years.”

The Bulldogs continued their mastery over the Flames and a season of misery for UIC coach Jimmy Collins, who suffered his 200th career loss and fell to 7-23 lifetime against Butler.

“For all of the chatbox [Internet message board] people and for all of the people who come to the game, they are well within their rights to blame the coaching staff for what we’re doing.” Collins admitted. “Obviously, it all falls on the coach, I know that. When you lose, it’s the coach and when you win, it’s the players. My challenge is try to keep their heads up and stay as positive as I can.”

The Flames fell to 5-14 overall and 1-8 in the Horizon League and equaled their longest losing streak of the season at six.

Butler shot 56 percent from the field, controlled the boards 34-26 and handed out 20 assists (to just nine turnovers).

UIC senior Jeremy Buttell gave Hayward and the Bulldogs credit, but also bemoaned the Flames’ deficiencies.

“When we don’t execute, everybody looks great,” said Buttell, who had 13 points and nine rebounds. “Hayward’s a good player. They’ve got a bunch of good players, but at the end of the day, we messed up a bunch of assignments. That’s all there is to it.”

Shelvin Mack was the only other Bulldog in double figures with 15 points to go with six assists. Willie Veasley and Matt Howard each scored nine points.

Zavion Neely shared game-high honors for the Flames with Buttell, scoring 13 points.

UIC’s go-to guy Robo Kreps was kept in check by Butler, scoring just four points on 2-for-6 from the field.

The Flames actually grabbed an 11-10 lead on K.C. Robbins’ 15-foot jumper with 14:38 left in the first half, but UIC’s only lead of the game lasted just 23 seconds.

Mack hit a three-point to kick-start a 12-3 run to put the Bulldogs ahead. Butler opened the lead to double digits just before halftime with a 9-0 run capped by Zach Hahn’s three-pointer with seven seconds before intermission.

Kreps hit a leaning 18-foot jumper at the first-half buzzer as the Flames went into the locker room trailing 37-26.

Buttell scored on a putback on the Flames’ first possession of the second half, but the Bulldogs steadily pulled away.

Veasley’s triple with 13:35 to play put Butler up 52-32 and the Flames began to look like a defeated group.

“When you lose so many games and you get down, then pretty soon, you just don’t believe you can do it,” Collins said.

The Bulldogs led by as many as 32 in the final minutes.

“We ran into one of the better teams in the country,” Collins said. “I could see that they’re going to beat a lot of people and we’re going to lose to a lot of people. It is what it is.”

Whoosh! photo

Sparky D. Dragon dribbles around the Willie the Wildcat during the halftime mascot game.

FLAMES FLICKERS: Buttell returned to the starting lineup while Brad Birton came off the bench. The Flames’ starting five was Kreps, Chris Buchanan, Spencer Stewart, Buttell, and Robbins. …

At the 11:50 mark of the first half, Howard and Birton got tangled up after Howard scored a basket and both players crashed to the floor. …

UIC senior guard Kris Harris was not present at the game. No official reason was given for his absence. …

Butler had all nine of its turnovers in the first half. …

Butler shot 19-for-23 (83 percent) at the free-throw line while was 7-for-8 (88 percent). …

With 5:29 left in the game and the Flames down 73-46, Collins emptied the bench and brought in Arman Rasul, Jimmy Harding, Dipanjot Singh, Anthony Kelley and Louis Green. Freshman guard Corey Gray also saw extended time in the second time. Rasul scored his first career points on a layup and grabbed three rebounds and Harding hit a three-pointer. …

Collins’ career coaching record is now 215-200. …

Former DePaul coach Jerry Wainwright attended the game. …

The annual mascots game was played at halftime featuring Sparky D. Dragon, Hink the Bulldog (Butler), Willie the Wildcat (Northwestern), Tommy Hawk (Blackhawks), Skates (Wolves), and Sky Guy among others.

In other recent news:
Robbins emerges, but Crusaders too tough (vs. Valpo) (1/22/10)
McCammon puts daggers in Flames (vs. Loyola, plus roster news) (1/15/10)
Road still unkind to Flames (at Cleveland St.) (1/10/10)
Buttell's big night can't save UIC (at Youngstown St.) (1/8/10)
Flames look listless, lost (vs. Wright St.) (1/3/10)
Kreps gets free ride as Flames beat Titans (vs. Detroit) (12/31/09)
Neely flips switch, Flames burn Rockets (vs. Toledo) (12/30/09)
Coal in Flames’ stockings (at Wisconsin) (12/28/09)
Zips dominate boards, extinguish Flames (at Akron) (12/22/09)
Flames take bite out of Huskies (vs. NIU) (12/20/09)
Kreps finishes off Flames' comeback (vs. Oregon St.) (12/17/09)