DETROIT (AP)—Gordon Hayward wasn’t quite perfect Thursday night but his shooting was more than enough to help No. 11 Butler bounce back from its first Horizon League loss of the season.
The freshman scored 22 points on 7-of-8 shooting and made a crucial 3-pointer late in the game to help the Bulldogs beat Detroit 66-61.
The victory came four days after Butler (20-1, 11-1) saw its 21-game conference winning streak end at Wisconsin-Green Bay.
“My teammates just got me a lot of good, open looks,” said Hayward, who was 4-for-5 from the free throw line. “We practice those kinds of plays every day.”
His 3 with under 7 minutes to play stopped a Detroit run and gave Butler a bit of a cushion. Detroit never got closer than four points the rest of the way and the Bulldogs closed it by making their last 10 free throws.
The victory, Butler’s fifth straight over the Titans, kept the Bulldogs a game ahead of Green Bay in the league standings. The Bulldogs have played 108 consecutive contests without losing consecutive games.
“You have to be good on the road in conference play,” Butler coach Brad Stevens said. “You have to earn everything you get.”
Butler closed the first half on a 10-3 run to take a 35-25 lead and was ahead by as many as 13 points early in the second half before the Titans (6-16, 1-11) rallied.
Woody Payne started a 15-3 spurt with a jumper and ended it with two free throws to bring the Titans within 45-44 with 7:22 to play, but Hayward had the Bulldogs’ response less than 30 seconds later.
Shelvin Mack added 14 points and Matt Howard had eight rebounds for Butler, which struggled to beat Detroit 54-50 on Jan. 10.
“They’re a tough matchup for us,” Stevens said of the Titans, who have lost 13 of the last 16 meetings but have often made the Bulldogs earn them.
“They’re bigger. Much bigger. They’re able to rotate in a lot of big guys.”
Payne had 21 points and Chris Hayes added 18 for Detroit, which lost its sixth straight at Calihan Hall.
“With Butler, you can’t afford to make mistakes,” Titans coach Ray McCallum said. “We had too many missed assignments and they got too many easy layups.”
The Bulldogs outrebounded the taller Titans 26-15, allowing them just three offensive rebounds.
“They really established themselves on the defensive end early,” McCallum added. “We didn’t get many second-shot opportunities and it hurt us.”
Reserve Eugene Blue had 10 points for Detroit, which has lost its last 14 games against ranked opponents.