Howard leads Butler to Horizon title
The Bulldogs (23-9) will get a chance to duplicate its wild run last year to the NCAA championship game when they fell two points short to Duke.
Butler (23-9) looked shaky at the season’s midway point, but reached the NCAA tournament for the 11th time by reeling off nine straight wins and avoiding losing to Milwaukee (19-13) for the third time this season.
The Panthers got 10 points apiece from Tone Boyle, Tony Meier and Anthony Hill, but couldn’t overcome a terrible shooting night, finishing 30 percent from the field.
The Panthers made their move when Ryan Allen’s layup cut it to 42-39, but Butler answered with a 16-1 run and held Milwaukee without a field goal for more than 7˝ minutes.
Howard hit a layup, Shawn Vanzant added one and after a miss the Bulldogs got out in transition as Howard went through the lane for a two-handed slam that made it 48-39 with 8:13 left.
Back-to-back three-pointers by Chase Stigall and Mack put Butler ahead 54-40 with 5:21 left and well on its way to the school’s seventh Horizon League tournament title.
The Panthers were looking for their fourth NCAA tournament appearance after winning the Horizon in 2003, 2005 and 2006.
Milwaukee crushed the Bulldogs by 24 in early January, a glimpse of promise in an up-and-down beginning to conference play. The Panthers fell to 9-11 after a bad loss to Valparasio. Now, the Panthers appear headed to the NIT.
Milwaukee’s postseason resume will put it in the NIT after winning the three-way tie for the Horizon League’s regular-season title.