Veasley’s 20 leads Butler to 74-69 win over Valpo
Butler didn’t let injury or illness spoil its perfect season in the Horizon League. Does the nation know that Butler is ranked No. 15? This is definitely one of the feel good stories for college basketball.
Willie Veasley scored 20 points to pace No. 15 Butler to a 74-69 victory over Valparaiso on Friday night and stretch its nation-leading winning streak to 18 games. Veasley .
The Bulldogs (26-4, 18-0) pulled out the win even without top scorer Gordon Hayward, who was out with a back injury. Matt Howard played with a stomach ailment and finished with 17 points and seven rebounds.
Veasley, who hit three 3-pointers during a key 19-3 run that put Butler in control, had missed Butler’s last game against Siena with a sprained right knee.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our guys because we went through a little adversity today not having Gordon at all and then Matt couldn’t participate in shootaround—we had to send him home because he had a little bit of a flu bug,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “Just an unbelievable effort by a group of guys that have great resolve.”
Stevens said he doesn’t smile much, but he had to when Veasley hit the three 3s during the decisive run.
“Here’s a guy that didn’t play last week on his senior day on Saturday, and comes in and scores 20, grabs six rebounds. He was 0 to 4 in assists to rebounds but just played his tail off,” Stevens said. “He played 36 minutes. Not many guys with that toughness.”
Veasley said he felt a bit winded at times but his knee was fine.
Howard was 2-of-4 shooting for four points in the first half with one rebound. In the second half he was 2-of-6 from the floor but 9-of-10 from the free throw line, adding seven rebounds. He said eating a granola bar helped him.
“I was able to sustain energy for a little while longer than I was able to in the second half,” he said.
Howard said the win was typical of Butler’s season.
“We’ve been through a lot of different things this year and found ways to win,” he said.
Valparaiso closed to 69-64 when Matt Kenney hit a 3-pointer with 1:21 left, but the Crusaders couldn’t get any closer.
“I was disappointed because we really were looking for the storybook ending,” Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said. “
Butler was 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the second half while Valparaiso was 4-of-25 for the game.
“If we could have just made six or seven threes, and I think we average eight a game, I think it could have gone down to the wire. I think our team deserved that,” he said.
The Bulldogs, in the midst of the school’s longest winning streak, became the third Horizon League team to go unbeaten in conference play. Also going undefeated were Wisconsin-Green Bay (16-0) in 1995-96 and Xavier (14-0) in 1994-95.
“It’s definitely something special,” Veasley said.
Cory Johnson led Valparaiso with 28 points and Brandon McPherson added 14.
Shelvin Mack had 16 points for Butler.
The Bulldogs managed to slow down Horizon League scoring leader Brandon Wood — just as they did in Indianapolis in December—holding him to 4 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Wood, who was averaging 17.9 points, had seven points the earlier 84-67 loss.
Valparaiso, which lost its ninth straight to Butler, fell to 2-58 overall against ranked opponents and 2-42 since it became a Division I program in 1977.
Butler improved to 12-1 on the road this season, winning nine straight road games since losing at UAB on Dec. 22.