No. 14 Butler Stops Detroit 68-58

The Associated Press
Saturday, January 27, 2007; 8:06 PM

DETROIT -- When Butler needed a big shot, A.J. Graves was ready at the 3-point line. Graves had 15 points and five assists to help the 14th-ranked Bulldogs overcome a sluggish second half and beat Detroit 68-58 Saturday for their fifth straight victory.

The win kept Butler (19-2, 7-1 Horizon League) alone in first place in the conference.

Graves made a critical 3-pointer with 3 minutes left to help the Bulldogs pull away. With his team clinging to a 56-52 lead, he got open in the corner and took a pass from Mike Green before connecting.

"It was a great pass," said Graves, who has scored in double figures in all but one game this season. "We never want to get away from our strengths, so I knew I had to keep shooting."

Brandon Crone completed a three-point play 30 seconds later to push the lead back to 10 for Butler, which finished 12-for-28 from behind the arc.

Brandon Cotton scored 28 points and Ryvon Covile added 12 for the Titans, who were seeking their first victory against a ranked opponent in more than seven years.

Butler made 60 percent of its field-goal attempts in the first half but was just 3-for-14 from the floor in the first 16 minutes of the second, allowing the Titans (7-13, 4-5) to close the gap.

Bulldogs coach Todd Lickliter said Detroit's defense had a lot to do with his team's second-half woes.

"They do a great job contesting shots," he said. "Even in the first half when we were making them, they got in our faces and even got a hand on a couple of them."

The Bulldogs made nine of their 15 3-point attempts in the first half and led by as many as 14 points. Their last eight baskets of the opening half were 3-pointers.

Down 38-24 at halftime, the Titans scored the first eight points of the second half and stayed close to Butler until the final 3 minutes. Jon Goode's free throw cut the lead to 49-47 with 7 minutes to play, but that was as close as Detroit got.

Butler scored the next five points and went 9-for-9 from the free throw line in the last 6 minutes.

"They were on fire in the first half," said Cotton, who scored 14 points in the second half. "We tried to come out and just win every 4-minute segment in the second half, but they made their shots late in the game when they needed to."

Butler was the highest-ranked team to visit Calihan Hall since Jan. 6, 1986, when No. 5 Kansas beat the Titans 60-51. Detroit's last win against a top 25 team came March 11, 1999, when it upset No. 15 UCLA in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

With wins over Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga already on the resume, Lickliter said the Bulldogs aren't taking anything for granted.

"We might like to think that things are going to go our way because we've won so many games," he said. "But we can't do that.

"We just have to keep focusing on taking whatever the offense or defense gives us each possession."

Crone and Green, who was 11-for-12 from the line, each had 12 points for Butler.

© 2007 The Associated Press