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NCAA top 25: Butler extends winning streak by getting past Valpo

VALPARAISO, Ind. — Willie Veasley scored 20 points and Matt Howard had 17 to lead No. 15 Butler to a 74-69 victory over Valparaiso Friday night and stretch its nation-leading winning streak to 18 games.

The Bulldogs (26-4, 18-0) pulled out the win even without top scorer Gordon Hayward, who was out with a back injury. Howard played with a stomach ailment and Veasley missed Butler's last game against Siena with a sprained right knee.

The Bulldogs pulled away with a 19-3 run that started midway through the second half when Valparaiso (15-16, 10-8) was leading 49-46. The Bulldogs grabbed a 53-49 lead on back-to-back 3-pointers by Veasley, and Zach Hahn and Veasley added two more 3s during the run to extend it to 65-52.

Valparaiso closed to 69-64 when Matt Kenney hit a 3-pointer with 1:21 left, but the Crusaders couldn't get any closer.

Butler was 6-of-8 from 3-point range in the second half while Valparaiso was 4-of-25 for the game.

The Bulldogs, in the midst of the school's longest winning streak, became the third Horizon League team to go unbeaten in conference play. Also going undefeated were Wisconsin-Green Bay (16-0) in 1995-96 and Xavier (14-0) in 1994-95.

Cory Johnson led Valparaiso with 28 points and Brandon McPherson added 14.

Shelvin Mack had 16 points for Butler. Howard, who was 2-of-4 shooting for four points in the first half with one rebound. In the second half he was 2-of-6 from the floor but 9-of-10 from the free throw line, adding seven rebounds.

The Bulldogs managed to slow down Horizon League scoring leader Brandon Wood — just as they did in Indianapolis in December — holding him to 4 points on 2-of-9 shooting. Wood, who was averaging 17.9 points, had seven points the earlier 84-67 loss.

Butler, which led by a point for just 14 seconds in the first half, went on a 10-2 run after halftime, with Mack scoring eight points during the run, including a pair of 3-pointers. A dunk by Howard put Butler up 40-33.

The Crusaders regained the lead moments later when Cory Johnson ended an 0-for-15 shooting streak from 3-point range, giving Valparaiso a 47-46 lead with 12:45 left.

Then the Bulldogs took control.

Valparaiso, which lost its ninth straight to Butler, fell to 2-58 overall against ranked opponents and 2-42 since it became a Division I program in 1977.

Butler improved to 12-1 on the road this season, winning nine straight road games since losing at UAB on Dec. 22.