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Bulldogs just too much for Flames


February 18, 2010

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Coach Jimmy Collins’ Flames fell to 0-14 on the road.

UIC provided a few minor bumps on the track, but the Butler express kept rolling on Wednesday night.

Reigning Horizon League Player of the Year Matt Howard scored 17 points, including 11-for-11 from the free throw, to lead for Bulldogs in double figures in a 73-55 win over the Flames at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis.

No. 18 Butler (24-4, 17-0 Horizon League) won its school-record 16th consecutive game and finished off a season sweep of UIC, which is now 0-14 away from the Pavilion.

The Flames came out in a 2-3 zone defense with an emphasis on slowing down Gordon Hayward, arguably the Horizon League’s best player. They succeeded to an extent, holding the sophomore sensation to just 11 points.

However, UIC sagged off another sophomore in point guard Ronald Nored, who drove his way to a career-high 16 points on 7-for-9 shooting. Nored, not known as a shooter or scorer, took advantage of the Flames’ focus being elsewhere.

“(UIC) sat in that 2-3 zone and our guys made enough plays,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Ron did a great job of getting to the basket.”

Hayward did grab a game-high 11 rebounds to lead the Bulldogs. Senior Willie Veasley also scored 11 points for Butler, which handed out 15 assists compared to six turnovers.

Robo Kreps led the Flames (6-20, 2-14) with 15 points, 13 of which came in the second half when UIC was fighting back from a double-digit deficit. Senior forward Jeremy Buttell notched a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Senior guard Kris Harris, who returned to the Flames after a talk with coach Jimmy Collins, had five points and a team-high four assists in 15 minutes off the bench. Harris had missed the team’s previous seven games because of personal reasons.

The Flames played hard, scrappy defense early in the game as Butler made just six of its first 21 shot attempts.

When Buttell splashed in a three-pointer with 8:54 left in the first half, UIC held a 15-14 lead.

“I thought we gave a lot of effort tonight,” Collins said. “But when you’re trying to match up with guys that play that well together …”

Well, fill in the blank. Butler went ahead and wrestled control of the game.

Nored hit a layup to give the Bulldogs the lead, then converted a three-point play moments later to help Butler close the first half on a 19-10 run for a 32-25 lead at the break.

UIC kept it close by holding Butler to 32 percent shooting in the opening period, but shot itself in the foot with turnovers.

In the second half, the cream rose to the top as the Bulldogs finally solved the Flames’ riddle.

Nored hit another layup to cap off an 8-1 run for a 51-35 advantage with 12:26 to play.

Kreps nailed a three-point to close the Flames within 51-41 with 10:13 left.

However, Hayward scored eight points to fuel an 18-2 explosion to put the game away. Grant Leiendecker’s three-point basket put the Bulldogs up 69-43 with 4:36 remaining.

FLAMES FLICKERS: UIC lost 20 games for just the fifth time in school history. It is the first time since the 1999-2000 season when the Flames were 11-20. … Junior forward Brad Birton missed his fifth straight game with an injured left shoulder. … UIC struggled again with its shooting eye, making just 31 percent from field and finished with 14 turnovers. … Butler has won the last eight meetings between the teams and is now 24-7 against Collins.

In other recent news:
Very few highlights in another Flames loss (at Loyola) (2/14/10)
Road win evades Flames again (at Valpo) (2/9/10)
Flames exhale, snap 9-game skid (vs. Youngstown St.) (2/7/10)
Shakeup can’t end Flames’ slide (vs. Cleveland St.) (2/5/10)
Close, but no cigar for Flames (at Detroit) (1/31/10)
Deep funk continues (at Wright St.) (1/29/10)
Hayward's star continues to rise (vs. Butler) (1/23/10)
Robbins emerges, but Crusaders too tough (vs. Valpo) (1/22/10)
McCammon puts daggers in Flames (vs. Loyola, plus roster news) (1/15/10)