Behind a strong defensive effort down the stretch, the Butler men defeated Iowa Western 81-73 Tuesday night in non-conference action at the Power Plant.
Freshman point guard Javaunte Hawkins led the Grizzlies with 19 points – including 11-of-12 makes from the foul line. Forward Marque English had a near double-double with 14 points and nine rebounds, while guard Grehlon Easter scored all of his 16 points in the second half to help Butler to victory.
With the win, Butler (6-2 overall) gained revenge on the Reivers from a Nov. 5 road meeting in Council Bluffs, which saw the Grizzlies fall 79-73. In that loss, Butler led by as many as 17 points in the first half and led by 13 at the break, but an Iowa Western 12-0 run to start the second half fueled the Reivers enroute to the victory.
This time around, it was Butler's defense keeping Iowa Western off the scoreboard for the final 3:26 of play while the Grizzly offense broke a 73-all tie and scored the final eight points of the contest, as both English and Hawkins came up with clutch baskets.
English snapped the tie with 1:57 left, as the 6-6 forward pulled down an offensive rebound and scored on a putback between a pair of Reiver defenders. On the Grizzlies' next possession, Hawkins ran the baseline and got open for a corner 3-pointer as Butler took a 78-73 lead with a minute left.
The two scores were all Butler needed, as Iowa Western missed its final four attempts from the field – all from behind the arc – along with going 0-for-3 from the free-throw line.
Hawkins made just two 3-pointers in the contest, but none were bigger than his on the evening. In addition to his insurance trey late in the second half, the freshman guard drained a 3-pointer just inside the half-court line as time expired in the first half, giving the Grizzlies momentum as they trailed 40-39 heading into the locker room.
"Javaunte is a solid player," Butler head coach Kyle Fisher said of Hawkins, who made just one turnover in 35 minutes of play. "He's an every-day guy and you always know what you're going to get with him. He's just a great spark and has a great feel. It was good to see him make that shot at the end of the half so he had some confidence. He really kept us in it in the first half."
Butler and Iowa Western traded leads early in the first half, with the Reivers taking an 18-12 lead behind a 7-0 run with 13:26 remaining. Following a Grizzly timeout, Butler answered with a 10-2 spurt to jump back ahead 22-20. Payton Dickerson gave the Grizzlies the lead on a driving layup at the 9:01 mark.
Butler's lead would be short-lived, as Iowa Western's Josiah Strong hit a jumper with 7:40 left before the break for a 23-22 lead. Strong finished with a game-high 23 points to lead the Reivers (4-4 overall).
Iowa Western would not trail again in the first half, though Hawkins pulled Butler within one in the final 33 seconds – making two foul shots, then hitting the long 3-pointer as time expired.
The lead exchanged hands again to begin the second half, with English draining a trey from the top of the perimeter just 10 seconds into the half. After Iowa Western's Seneca Louis scored two straight baskets, Easter hit the first of his 16 points with a 3-pointer from the right wing for a Grizzly 45-44 lead.
Easter's trey started a Butler 9-0 run, as the Grizzlies would score on four straight possessions. Tracy Jones tipped in a Hawkins miss, then Easter and Hawkins followed with layups as Butler moved in front 51-44 with 16:11 remaining.
The Grizzlies extended the lead to eight on two separate occasions, beginning with White getting followed after blowing by a Reiver defender for a layup. White's bonus shot at the 11:35 mark had the Grizzlies up 60-52. Just over two minutes later, Brice made a steal on the baseline and found Zach Butler up-court for an easy dunk and a 64-56 Grizzly lead.
Following Butler's dunk, Iowa Western climbed back into the game behind an 11-3 run, tying the game at 67-all on a Strong 3-pointer with six minutes remaining.
The Reivers kept pace with Butler as four ties occurred over the next 3:34 of play. Iowa Western's Jalen Dalcourt scored the last two points for the visitors at the 3:26 mark. The Reivers called a 30-second timeout, which Fisher took advantage of by imploring the Grizzlies to buckle down defensively.
"We really emphasized guarding the ball and keeping them out of the paint," said Fisher. "(Iowa Western) went out there missing and we've got run-out opportunities and that helped our confidence. There was no shortage of motivation after getting beat by them up there."
The talk paid off as Butler did not allow a shot inside the paint, as Iowa Western settled for perimeter shooting and missed all four attempts in the final 3:26.
White scored 10 points to give Butler four players in double-digits, while Jones and Brice finished eight points each. Making his first start of the season, Jones added nine rebounds in just 20 minutes of play.
"He's starting to find his rhythm," Fisher said of Jones. "He made a huge difference, not only from scoring and rebounding, but just being a presence out there on the floor defensively and rebounding and being able to give Marque and Kamron a little bit of a breather."
With both teams nearly shooting identical numbers from the field – Butler hit 41.2 percent on 28-of-68 shooting, while the Reivers made 42.2 percent behind 27-of-64 shots – the Grizzlies edged Iowa Western in rebounds (38-34), steals (7-4), and had a six-point differential from the free-throw line. Butler shot 81.0 percent from the charity stripe, hitting 17-of-21 – including a perfect 9-of-9 in the opening half.
Butler will finish out non-conference play with a home contest against Bethany College JV at 7:00 p.m. The Grizzlies then open Jayhawk Conference play with two road games, beginning with a Tuesday, Nov. 26 meeting in Liberal against Seward County.