On the surface, it might appear as though Butler is regaining a bit of momentum after an unheard of three losses in four Horizon League games. The Bulldogs beat UIC 72-65 Monday night at Hinkle Fieldhouse, for their second straight win, but it came with a heavy price.
"I thought that was a great win, especially considering we were a little bit short-handed there at the end of the game," said Butler head coach Brad Stevens in his initial comments to reporters.
Horizon League Player of the Year candidate Matt Howard left the game at halftime after losing a large amount of blood after taking an inadvertent elbow just prior to Shawn Vanzant's buzzer beater which gave the Bulldogs a 34-33 halftime lead.
Howard was knocked down after Paris Carter's elbow struck his right forehead. When he got up, fans quickly saw a face full of blood, a sight nobody in attendance could recall witnessing before on a basketball court.
"I've seen Matt look kind of like that before, haven't we?" said Stevens, only half serious, a statement that was a compliment to Howard and the way he routinely gives up his body for the team. "Not really, and he's such a tough kid. The last thing he wants to do is sit for any time at the end of his career. I'm glad that we played the way that we did in the second half."Advertisement
Butler was also playing without Chase Stigall at the finish, who started but suffered a lower leg injury in the first half. Garrett Butcher was unable to play at all after having a previous bone bruise flare up prior to tip-off. Ronald Nored also recently had stitches in his hand after injuring it in a loss at Youngstown State Thursday. Numerous other Bulldogs have been playing through nagging injuries this season as well.
Stevens is only calling Howard's injury "day-to-day" but acknowledges that doctors will check for any possible after affects of the big hit.
"He's obviously got a big knot up here (pointing to the forehead) and he's got stitches and everything else. They (training staff) haven't said anything but that they are going to keep monitoring it throughout the week. It's not determined that he's out on Thursday (against Wright State) or anything like that," added Stevens.
Howard scored nine first half points, but in his absence a number of Bulldogs picked up the slack, led by Shelvin Mack who scored 17 points. Freshman Khyle Marshall added 11, while Zach Hahn and Ronald Nored hit double-figures with 10 points respectively.
Stevens was clearly pleased for the final horn to sound with Butler on the winning end, considering how well UIC played and the setbacks the Dawgs suffered.
"If you would've told me that Matt played 17 minutes and we lost Chase early, and you would've told me we won by seven, I would've been plenty happy," added Stevens.
The Bulldogs still have plenty of work to do, both in the training room and on the court to get back in position to participate in the NCAA tournament. However, Monday's hard-fought victory over the Flames shows this team still has the toughness necessary to get the job done.
It remains to be seen, however, whether they'll have the healthy and able bodies it takes to contend for the Horizon League regular season or tournament championship.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times