CLEVELAND - Butler continued its dominance of Cleveland State on the hardwood. As CSU laid another egg against their hated rivals in front a national television audience on ESPN2.
Despite a sold out crowd of 8,490 at the Wolstein Center on Saturday afternoon, CSU could not hold serve at home as the Bulldogs swept the regular season series against the Vikings, 73-61.
The Bulldogs (15-9, 7-5 Horizon League) have won eight of its past nine meetings with the Vikings (21-4, 10-3). They are 29-7 all-time against CSU. The last time CSU defeated Butler was in March of 2009 during the Horizon League championship game.
With the loss, CSU still remains in first-place, but only a half-game ahead of second-place Valparaiso (9-3 Horizon League), who defeated Youngstown State on Saturday.
"They came in and out played us," said CSU coach Gary Waters. "We had 18 buckets, and if you only score 18 buckets, you're not going to win many games."
Waters took some of the blame for the loss. "I went away from something that I should have never did," he said. "What we do is press and pressure people the whole time. That's what we are going to do. That's who we are.
"We didn't trap for turnovers. That will never happen again. If they can beat us they are going to have to beat us our way."
Waters said one of the reasons why he didn't use the press early in the game was because starters Trevon Harmon and Aaron Pogue were both in foul trouble for most of the game.
Turnovers played a key role in the game. Without CSU playing its aggressive style of play, the Vikings, which are second in the Horizon League in turnover margin, were only able to create six. While Butler created 12, which led to a 15-6 advantage in points off turnovers for the Bulldogs.
"Turnovers are key to winning on the road," said Butler coach Brad Stevens.
Waters was asked why he thought CSU does not match-up well against Butler. "Where there is a matchup problem for us is our bench against their bench," he said. "Our bench was doing nothing today at any phase of the game."
CSU's bench was outscored by their counterparts, 23-6.
Norris Cole was quick to point out that CSU lost both regular season games to Butler during the year they won their Horizon League championship in 2009.
"We will get our chance again," said Cole. "I'm not down, my team's not down. We will be ready to keep fighting."
The Vikings took its only lead in the second half on a pair of free throws from Jeremy Montgomery that put them up, 36-35. Two minuets later, a three-pointer by CSU's Tim Kamczyc tied the game at 43-43. After that it was all Butler.
Butler's Matt Howard, who is not known for his 3-point shooting, hit four 3-pointers in the game, two of them came in the final five minutes.
With 4:46 left, Howard's third 3-pointer on the night extended the lead to 63-53. With the shot clock winding down, his last 3-pointer put the nail in the coffin for the Vikings extending the lead to 71-59 with 1:33 left in the game.
"I just looked at the basket and let it go," said Howard. "Obviously there weren't many options unless you want a turnover."
With Harmon and Pogue sitting on the bench in foul trouble, CSU could not get its offense going.
CSU shot 40 percent (18-of-45) from the field. While Butler shot 46.8 percent (29-of-62), including 55.2 percent (16-of-29) in the second half.
Butler did a excellent job of controlling Cole from getting to the rim. Cole struggled from the field shooting 4-of-13, finishing with 15 points. He went 7-of-9 from the line.
"They were double-teaming him so he didn't get to the basket," said Waters.
Montgomery led CSU with 18 points.
The Bulldogs had five players in double-figures, led by Howard with 14. The others were Andrew Smith (13), Khyle Marshall (12), Shelvin Mack (11) and Shawn Vanzant (10).
The Vikings better regroup quick because their next game is at Detroit on Monday.
"We will bounce back," said Waters. "Because the biggest game of our season is coming up on Monday."