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Freshman boosts Bulldogs past Flames

HOT-SHOOTING START LIFTS BUTLER

January 27, 2008

File photo

Butler freshman forward Matt Howard, who scored a game-high 20 points looks for a shot as UIC’s Tori Boyd guards him.

The Butler media guide may say that Matt Howard is a freshman, but he looked like a polished upperclassman on Saturday afternoon.

UIC couldn’t stop Butler’s fabulous freshman, who scored six points in a critical 9-0 run midway through the second half, and the No. 15 Bulldogs defeated the Flames 73-57 at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

Howard, a 6-foot-7, 220-pound forward, who was recruited by Big Ten schools, finished with 20 points on 7-for-8 from the field and 6-for-6 from the free-throw line.

Howard hit a layup, a rebound dunk and two free throws to expand an eight-point game to 61-44, giving Butler (19-2, 8-2) a nice cushion.

Howard and his teammates were consistently able to pull the Flames’ 7-foot center Scott VanderMeer away from the basket to create better looks at the rim.

“I think we did a great job of using our bodies against [VanderMeer],” Butler coach Brad Stevens told WXNT radio after the game. “We brought him out on the floor.”

The Flames (10-10, 4-5) had one run left in them, making a 13-4 charge to clip the deficit to 65-57 on Karl White Jr.’s driving layup with 3:39 to play. However, it was too late for UIC and the Bulldogs closed the game with eight straight points.

“We played well in stretches,” Stevens said. “UIC is a team that’s extremely explosive. They definitely don’t need 35 seconds (on the shot clock) to score points.”

A.J. Graves, who was in a miserable shooting slump, added 16 points and backcourt mate Mike Green contributed 15 as Butler shot 53 percent from the field.

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Josh Mayo, who led the Flames with 19 points, looks for an opening to drive as Butler’s Mike Green defends.

Josh Mayo scored 19 points to lead UIC, which shot a respectable 46 percent from the field. Scott VanderMeer chipped in with 12 points and seven rebounds, while White had nine points and Robert Kreps finished with eight points.

The Bulldogs rarely missed in the first half, shooting 68 percent from the field (17-for-25) in taking a 43-30 halftime lead. Butler shot 58 percent (7-for-12) from three-point range, while UIC was 48 percent from the field (12-for-25). Three Bulldogs posted double figures in the first half, including Julian Betko’s 11 points and 10 points apiece from Howard and Graves.

Butler went on a 12-0 run early to take a 17-5 lead, capped by a Mike Green three-pointer. UIC trailed by as many as 15 points after a Matt Howard layup, but it chipped away late in the half.

Mayo hit two three-pointers as the Flames closed to 37-30 with 51 seconds to play, but Betko hit a three of his own to put the Bulldogs up by 10. After a Mayo missed three-pointer with 9 seconds left, Butler was able to run a play and Graves drove into the lane and dished off to Betko, who canned another trey for a 13-point halftime advantage.

The Flames committed eight turnovers in the opening half, leading to 14 Butler points.

“We gave it a good effort,” UIC coach Jimmy Collins said. “Butler’s a scrappy team. They’re going to make you run; they’re going to make you do what they want you to do, and they do it well.”

FLAMES FLICKERS: VanderMeer was poked in the eye on a foul with 8:34 left in the first half. He left the game momentarily but did return. However, he did not record a blocked shot. …

Jermaine Dailey got the start at forward and Jeremy Buttell came off the bench. Dailey had a highlight-reel one-handed dunk off an alley-oop pass from Spencer Stewart.

UP NEXT: UIC returns to the Pavilion for a two-game homestand, starting with Cleveland State on Thursday. The Vikings fell out of first place after a 79-71 loss at Milwaukee on Saturday night.

The game tips off at 7 p.m. Thursday night from the UIC Pavilion. If fans can’t make it out, the game will be video streamed on the Horizon League Network and audio streamed, with Adam Levinson and Kenny McReynolds, on WIND-AM 560.

In other recent news:
UIC lets road win slip away at Valpo (Stewart retruns) (1/25/08)
Mayo, Flames three-mendous (Valpo preview) (1/24/08)
Balance helps Flames bounce back (vs. Detroit) (1/20/08)
Perfect home record suffers Brown-out (vs. Wright State) (1/18/08)
Finding success halfway around the world (A. Williams, Bowen, Dailey) (1/16/08)
White, Mayo help Flames secure double-OT win (vs. Loyola) (1/13/08)
With Ramblers on horizon, Flames making tweaks (plus Stewart update) (1/11/08)
Flames extinguished in Cleveland (plus Bowen update) (1/6/08)
Flames sleepwalk in Youngstown (1/4/08)
COMMENTARY: Flames still under the radar (1/2/08)