The Bulldogs (1-0) didn't miss a beat without Brad Stevens, who left for the NBA in July. They won their 15th consecutive home opener and improved to 227-34 at Hinkle Fieldhouse over the last 18 seasons.
And they did it against two former Hoosiers, Lamar head coach Pat Knight and assistant coach Sherron Wilkerson, who were returning to their home state. Last season, the Cardinals (0-1) lost at Purdue.
The Bulldogs took control by closing the half on a 9-2 run, extended the lead to 12 early in the second half and never let the Cardinals challenge again.
Nimrod Hilliard scored 23 points to lead Lamar.
For Butler, it was the dawning of a new era.
Miller had never been a head coach at any level and was trying to replace the wonder coach who led Butler to back-to-back national championship games. Also gone were last year's cornerstones, guard Rotnei Clarke and center Andrew Smith, who graduated, and this year's expected leader, Roosevelt Jones, who watched the game in street clothes as he recovers from a season-ending broken left wrist. The conference name at the two free throw lines changed for the third time in three years, this time to the Big East. And the Bulldogs had a new live mascot, too.
But it was familiar faces that swung this game in Butler's favor.
Marshall and Erik Fromm, the Bulldogs only seniors, scored 11 of the first 13 points. Marshall had 10 points and eight rebounds in the first half.
After Lamar rallied from an early five-point deficit with a 10-0 run, Marshall and sophomore Kellen Dunham led a quick soring flurry to give Butler the lead and their teammates took the cue. Jackson Aldridge got a fortuitous bounce on a 3-pointer to give Butler a 32-30 lead and Kameron Woods scored four points in a half-closing 9-2 spurt, giving the Bulldogs a 38-32 lead.
Butler was just getting started. It opened the second half on an 8-2 spurt, taking a 46-34 lead, and extended the margin to as much as 61-40 midway through the second half.
The game marked the return of Knight, the son of Bob Knight, to his home state and the college debuts of sons of two other famous fathers -- Butler's Elijah Brown and Lamar's Preston Mattingly. Brown, the son of Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, finished with five points in 17 minutes. Mattingly, an Evansville, Ind., native and the son of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, did not score in nine minutes.
Butler had its highest scoring total in a season opener since 2000 and its largest crowd (9,617) at a home opener since 1993.
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|Stephen F. Austin||18-0||-||28-6|
|Sam Houston State||12-6||6||18-16|