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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Butler clinches NCAA birth with win over Vikings 70-55

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Mike Green matched his career high with 24 points and No. 12 Butler used a big second-half run to beat Cleveland State 70-55 for its fifth Horizon League championship and first automatic berth in the NCAAs since 2001.

Butler (29-3) blew a 14-point lead in the first half but pulled away again midway through the second half and took a 60-44 lead with 6 minutes to go on consecutive 3-pointers by Drew Streicher and reserve Zach Hahn.

J'Nathan Bullock, who led Cleveland State (21-12) with 21 points, scored the next five for the Vikings, but they never came closer than 13 points the rest of the game.

Matt Howard added 16 points and Streicher scored a season-high 11 for the Bulldogs.

Both of Butler's NCAA appearances since it last won the Horizon tournament came as at-large selections. The Bulldogs would've been a lock to get in to the NCAA tournament even if they had left it up to the selection committee. But this time they punched their own ticket.

Cleveland State, which split a pair of close games with Butler in the regular season this year, came in as the Horizon's No. 2 seed behind the top-seeded Bulldogs and reached the championship game for the first time. The loss left the Vikings on the NCAA bubble, however, still needing help from the selection committee on Sunday to make their first tournament appearance since 1986.

Everything went Butler's way the first seven minutes and again for the last 7.

Helped by repeated turnovers by Cleveland State, Butler took a 7-0 lead, widened it to 14-4 on a 3-pointer by A.J. Graves and took its biggest lead of the first half at 20-6 with consecutive 3-point baskets by Pete Campbell and Streicher.

The Vikings held the Bulldogs to two baskets and six free throws over the next nine minutes, however, and pulled within 30-29 on a rebound basket by Cedrick Jackson. Butler built the lead back to five, but Bullock hit one of two free throws, Joe Davis scored and Jackson hit two foul shots to tie the game for the only time at 34.

Two free throws apiece by Green and Graves gave the Bulldogs a 38-34 lead at halftime.

The Vikings played most of the second half without Jackson, who re-injured his left ankle and left early in the final period.

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