INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- The Butler Bulldogs' national ranking makes them a target, and they're looking forward to playing more games with that added pressure.
Mike Green scored 16 points, A.J. Graves added 14 and Butler (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 19 AP) beat Cleveland State 70-45 Saturday night to protect its first Top 25 ranking in nearly five years."Coach talked to us about each team coming after you and we want to keep it going," Green said. "I like the challenge and I'm pretty sure my teammates like the challenge, too."Green also had eight rebounds for Butler (9-0, 1-0 Horizon League), which earned its highest ranking since 1948-49 after winning the NIT Season Tip-Off. The Bulldogs have won 13 straight home games and are within one win of matching the third-best start in school history.Before Monday, the Bulldogs were last ranked for three weeks in 2001-02, reaching as high as 20th."Coach talked to us about each team coming after you and we want to keep it going," Green said of coach Todd Lickliter. "I like the challenge and I'm pretty sure my teammates like the challenge, too."Cleveland State tried to quicken the pace and force mistakes but the Bulldogs committed only seven turnovers, shared the scoring and limited the Vikings to 33.3 percent shooting from the field.Brandon Crone had 10 points and five assists, and Brian Ligon and Pete Campbell each scored eight for Butler. Green added a career-high eight rebounds."I don't blame them for trying to do that (push the tempo), but if you take care of the basketball and make some shots, this is what happens," Lickliter said. "I wish we would have shot a little better from 3-point range but they were good."Cleveland State (5-4, 0-1) lost a four-game winning streak, its longest since 2000-01. J'Nathan Bullock and Kevin Francis had 11 points apiece for the Vikings, who play nonconference games at Kansas State on Tuesday and No. 3 Ohio State next Saturday.The Vikings spent much of Saturday's game in foul trouble, couldn't keep Butler from penetrating and wound up committing 13 turnovers, which gave Butler a huge advantage."It's hard to get them out of sync," Vikings first-year coach Gary Waters said. "They know what they're trying to do, they've got veterans doing it and they're good. I'm very impressed."The start, however, wasn't so impressive.Cleveland State hung around for the first 17 minutes, closing to 22-20 late in the first half before the Bulldogs' shooters got started.Pete Campbell, a 6-foot-7 freshman, made a 3-pointer late in the first half to start a 13-2 run. Graves followed Campbell with another 3, Green scored on a fastbreak, Drew Streicher converted a layup and Campbell finished the surge with another 3 as Butler hit its last seven shots of the half to make it 35-22."When they're shooting it, it's hard to stop them," Waters said. "And their big guys helped out. They hit three or four 3s in the first half, and that hurt us."Cleveland State got as close as 39-30 with 14:11 left, but the Bulldogs responded with another strong stretch.This time, Graves opened an 10-1 run with a nifty layup. Ligon followed that with back-to-back baskets, Green put in a layup and Willie Veasley scored off a turnover to give Butler a 49-31 lead.After a Vikings free throw temporarily halted the run, Butler scored the next eight points to make it 57-32.The only remaining question was whether the Bulldogs could hold their sixth opponent of the season to fewer than 60 points.Mission accomplished, and now Butler will wait to see what the poll voters have to say."I think this team has a character about it," Lickliter said. "They care about one another and doing what's right and they've done a good job handling success."