INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Coach Chris Holtmann expected more from No. 13 Butler on Wednesday night.
The crisp passes and fluid offense he witnessed in the Bulldogs’ previous two games were missing. Their usually devastating 3-point barrage was off the mark, and the energy was lacking. At halftime, Holtmann made it clear what needed to be done and the Bulldogs responded.
Andrew Chrabascz scored a season-high 28 points and Butler shot 69.6 percent from the field in the second half to pull away from Vermont, 81-69.
“We got exposed in some areas that are real concerns, that we’re going to need to shore up before we get into Big East play,” Holtmann said after earning his 100th career win, 56 of those since taking over at Butler three seasons ago. “I think they out-toughed us in a lot of ways, physically and that’s a concern. That’s a real concern.”
With three straight wins and a 36-game home winning streak over non-conference foes, Holtmann couldn’t complain about the result.
But with this being the only game on the schedule between Saturday’s upset of then-No. 9 Indiana and the start of conference play next week, Holtmann wanted to see a much stronger 40-minute effort.
Other than Chrabascz, who was 12 of 18 from the field, and Kelan Martin, who had 21 points and eight rebounds, the Bulldogs didn’t have another real scoring threat.
Holtmann also didn’t like seeing Vermont (8-5) score 34 points in the paint and play to a 32-32 rebounding draw. While that was good enough Wednesday, it won’t be soon.
“I think we know what’s coming,” Holtmann said.
Drew Urquhart and Trae Bell-Haynes scored 14 points each to lead the Catamounts, who took advantage of Butler’s sluggish start to keep the score close most of the first half.
Chrabascz changed everything with a 3-pointer in the middle of a 7-0 run. Butler followed that with another 6-0 flurry that pushed the led to 38-24 with 1:30 left in the half, and Vermont couldn’t got closer than eight the rest of the game.
“You’ve got to play almost flawless to beat this Butler team. They don’t beat themselves,” Vermont coach John Becker said. “We were close but not quite good enough yet.”
Vermont: This team is built around defense, and there’s little doubt the Catamounts can shut down teams. To take that next step and beat tougher opponents, though, Vermont must play more consistent offensively – something they struggled with as leading scorer Payton Henson sat out with a knee injury. Becker said Henson could miss up to a month.
Butler: For the second straight season, the Bulldogs head into conference play with an 11-1 record. But this year’s resume looks a little stronger. They’re 3-0 against ranked teams, 2-0 against the top 10 and added a win over the preseason favorite to win the America East Conference.
BACK HOME AGAIN
Former Indiana All-Star Josh Speidel was one of four Vermont players appearing in their home state. The group was comprised of Ernie and Everett Duncan, who played prep ball in Evansville, and senior guard Dre Wills, who grew up in Indy.
But it was Speidel, the freshman forward who sat on the bench dressed in street clothes and with his trademark bow tie, who had the starring role. He continues to rehab from a traumatic brain injury he suffered as the result of as serious car crash during his senior season at Columbus North High School. Butler’s fans gave Speidel a loud ovation during a special pregame introduction.
“There’s no place like home,” Speidel said.
TAKING A BREAK
The loudest ovation of the night came during a media timeout in the first half when an image of former coach Brad Stevens and former assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry appeared on the video board at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Stevens and Shrewsberry both work now for the Boston Celtics, who are in town to play the Indiana Pacers on Thursday night.
Vermont: Will take an eight-day break before heading to Siena on Dec. 29.
Butler: Opens Big East play Dec. 29 at St. John’s.