VALPARAISO, Ind. (AP) -- Butler (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) showed no signs of pressure playing with its highest ranking in 57 years.
"I think we realized we have a lot of season left and some challenging games coming," A.J. Graves said. "We knew ranked or not this would be a tough place to try to come in and win."The game against Valparaiso didn't turn out to be as difficult as expected, though. Two nights after giving No. 8 Marquette a scare in a three-point loss, the Crusaders never threatened as the Bulldogs cruised to a 60-47 victory Wednesday night."I thought our guys stayed poised down the stretch," Butler coach Todd Lickliter said. "We got contributions from a lot of players. I thought it was a real team effort."Mike Green scored 16 points to lead Butler. He scored nine straight during a decisive 14-1 run late in the first half that stretched Butler's lead from 16-14 to 30-15. Valparaiso (3-3) never got closer than 11 after that."I just played," Green said. "I did my job when the opportunity presented itself. I got to the rim and finished."Valparaiso, which shot 8-of-10 from 3-point range in the second half against Marquette, couldn't get its outside game going against Butler (8-0). The Crusaders were 3-of-17 from 3-point range. They also were 8-of-19 from the free-throw line.Valparaiso coach Homer Drew said the 3-point shooting and free-throw troubles were the keys."We don't like to live and die with the 3," he said. "We'd like to have an inside game. You have to compliment Butler. Our young people aren't strong enough to get the deep position. When we did get the ball in there we had too many turnovers."Brandon McPherson led Valparaiso with 14 points and Jarryd Loyd had 10.McPherson said it was hard coming back two nights after the disappointing loss to Marquette."Obviously, we showed it was difficult," he said. "We have to take that upon ourselves."Butler, which shot below 40 percent for six straight games, shot 42.5 percent against the Crusaders. The Bulldogs also were 20-of-26 from the free-throw line. Butler is off to its best start since opening the 2002-03 season with 10 straight victories.Butler opened its biggest lead, 55-39, when Green drove the middle of the lane for a layup with 4:50 left. McPherson scored six points as Valparaiso used a 12-3 run to close to 56-45 with 1:14 left. But Graves clinched the victory with a three-point play to restore the lead to 14 points.The Bulldogs jumped to No. 19 in the poll Monday -- their highest ranking since being ranked No. 11 for three weeks during the 1948-49 season -- following victories over Notre Dame, Indiana, Tennessee and Gonzaga."It's been a great run for us," said Graves, who scored 13 points. "We have to keep it going. We know we have to heighten our focus for each and every game."