Butler Uses Defense, Breaks, Bounces In Win

Stanford let a halftime lead slip away, and fell 71-66 to Butler on Thursday night at Maples Pavilion. The Bulldogs outscored the Cardinal 45-35 in the second half, outrebounded Stanford 34-29, and got several lucky breaks in the victory.

"They made winning plays," Stanford forward Josh Owens said. "We didn't necessarily make the winning plays we needed to make. Like the three-point shot they hit at the buzzer, the pass/shot off the backboard, those are defensive possessions we need to close out. We didn't do that."

Stanford's offensive inefficiency also proved problematic. The Cardinal shot only 62 percent from the foul line, going 13-21, and committed 10 second half turnovers, which outweighed a solid shooting output (the Cardinal shot 49 percent from the field).

A slow start to the game didn't help either. Stanford scored only one point in the game's first five minutes, and trailed 6-1 after Kameron Woods hit a jumper with 15:02 left in the half.

Eventually, however, Stanford found its rhythm, and actually took the lead in the latter parts of the first half. The Cardinal ended the half on a 12-3 run to grab a 31-26 halftime lead.

The Bulldogs quickly erased that deficit in the second half, using an 18-8 spurt to go ahead 47-42 with 11:40 remaining. The Cardinal went on a 6-0 run to regain the lead a few moments later, but never did sustain any momentum in the duration of the second half.

Stanford's final push came with less than five minutes to go, when forward John Gage hit a three-pointer with 4:10 left to cut the lead to 59-55. But a stingy Cardinal defensive effort on the ensuing possession was nullified when Butler's Ronald Nored drained a three of his own, apparently after the shot clock expired, to give Butler a seven-point lead.

With the Cardinal irate over the apparent missed call, Aaron Bright missed a jumper on the following possession, and Roosevelt Jones hit a layup to give Butler a 64-55 lead with 3:10 left.

Stanford cut the lead to 64-60 with 1:26 left, but Butler hit a layup on a fluky bounce off a desperation heave to go up 66-60 with under a minute remaining and ice away the victory.

"We played much better in the second half offensively with the ball and we got some fortuitous bounces in the second half too," Butler coach Brad Stevens said. "Sometimes you have to get those to win the game."

Owens led Stanford with another strong performance, scoring 17 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. Chasson Randle (16), John Gage (12), and Aaron Bright (11) rounded out the Cardinal in double figures.

Stevens was particularly impressed by Randle's performance.

"When I walked out of here I told our staff the Randle kid is obviously a great, great freshman," Stevens said. "If there are better freshmen guards than [Gonzaga guard Kevin] Pangos, who we played the other day, and Randle out West, than there are some good guards out here."

Nored led Butler with 18 points on 5-8 shooting, Jackson Aldridge added 15 points before fouling out, and Andrew Smith scored 10.

The Cardinal outshot the Bulldogs (49 percent to 46 percent), but Stanford coach Johnny Dawkins wasn't pleased with his team's defensive showing.

"I thought they did a good job of executing what they wanted offensively and I thought we could have been better," Dawkins said. "I thought some of our breakdowns were due to a lack of communication, things that we really emphasize. We didn't have it as well tonight as I would have liked."

The disappointing loss dropped Stanford's record to 10-2, while Butler improved to 6-7. The Cardinal will return to play on Dec. 28th for the start of its Pac-12 schedule when they host UCLA.

Dawkins hopes his team learns from the narrow defeat.

"It's a great game for us," Dawkins said. "I think we'll learn a lot from the tape and I think we'll get better from the experience. I think our guys have a strong belief, we know we can compete. We have to go out and get better and I think the butler game was a good game to find more of those things out.

"Now we've had some adversity, what are we going to do with it? Hopefully we'll respond by working hard and getting better."

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