Butler has set a school record with its 17-game win streak and is on the verge of making history in the Horizon League.
The 15th-ranked Bulldogs look to extend the nation's longest win streak and become the first Horizon team to go 18-0 in league play Friday night at Valparaiso.No team has gone unbeaten in the league since Wisconsin-Green Bay went 16-0 in 1995-96. Butler (25-4, 17-0) is eager to achieve perfection after closing out non-conference play with a 70-53 home victory over Siena on Saturday."Going to Valpo, it's going to be a great environment," leading scorer Gordon Hayward said. "They're a good team and we're going to have to play as hard as we played here today."Butler has won eight straight against Valparaiso (15-15, 10-7) and will try to shut down Horizon League scoring leader Brandon Wood again. Wood, averaging 17.9 points, fouled out with seven in a 84-67 road loss Dec. 5.That's the kind of defense the Bulldogs have used lately, holding nine of their last 11 opponents to below 40 percent shooting. Butler limited Siena to 33.9 percent from the field.Shelvin Mack scored 23 points Saturday and Hayward added 15 and 12 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who shot 52.1 percent and erased a three-point halftime deficit. Mack had averaged 8.2 points in his previous six games."I think one of the keys was that we had to get used to the way the game was being played," coach Brad Stevens said.The Bulldogs won without forward Willie Veasley, whose streak of 60 straight starts and 91 games in a row ended due to a sprained right knee. Veasley, averaging 10.0 points and 4.2 rebounds, is expected to play Friday.This game has plenty of importance for the Crusaders, who can clinch at least the fourth seed in the league tournament with an upset.It's also the final regular-season home game for guard Brandon McPherson, an Indianapolis native who came to Valparaiso after a stellar high school career. McPherson will set a school record by appearing in his 128th game Friday.Valparaiso fell 87-70 at Bowling Green last Saturday. McPherson scored 16 points while Wood was limited to 10 for the second straight game.The Crusaders committed 13 of their 18 turnovers in the first half and average 14.0 to rank near the bottom of the league."We just turned the ball over way too many times, especially in the first half," coach Homer Drew said. "Thirteen turnovers in a half for us led to 21 points for Bowling Green, and that is just unacceptable."Valparaiso has won three straight and nine of 11 at home.