Butler men hold off Independence to improve to 8-0

Butler men hold off Independence to improve to 8-0

The Butler men saw a 10-point lead evaporate in the second half but were able to hold off a determined Independence squad by a 75-68 score on Saturday afternoon to remain undefeated on the season.

The Grizzlies and Pirates played a back-and-forth first half as neither team led by more than three points until Butler went on a 6-0 run near the end of the half. Caelan Neal's three-pointer with 13 seconds left in the half gave Butler a 27-20 lead. Independence got a layup just before the buzzer sounded, but the Grizzlies still led 27-22 at halftime. 

Butler stretched its lead to as many as 10 points after a layup by Kyle Steward with 16:34 to play in the game. Independence rallied back to take a 49-48 lead with 10:03 to play on a Malik Harden layup.

The Grizzlies answered with two layups by Derrick Byrd, a jumper by Caelan Neal and two free throws by Jacolby Harris as part of an 8-2 run that put Butler up 56-51 with 7:48 to go.

Independence would get as close as two points at 62-60 after a layup by Erick Green at the 3:24 mark, but the Grizzlies scored seven straight points, capped by a layup and free throw by Derrick Byrd with 2:14 to play to make it a 69-60 game.

Butler would go up by double digits one more time after two free throws by Robert Joiner with 37 seconds to go made it a 73-63 game, sealing the win for the Grizzlies.

Derrick Byrd and Jacolby Harris had 14 points apiece in a balanced Butler attack. Lamar Wofford had 12 points and 12 rebounds, marking the second straight game the sophomore has had a double-double. Robert Joiner had 11 points and Chris Howell scored nine.

Butler is now 8-0 on the season, the best start to a season for Butler in eight years under head coach Mike Bargen. The 2009-10 Grizzlies were 7-0 before falling to Coffeyville in the eighth game of the season. The last time Butler was still undefeated at this point in the season was 1996-97, when the Grizzlies went 16-0 and ascended to No. 1 in the national rankings before losing at Barton in January.

The Grizzlies will stay at home, playing one more game on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against Labette before the Thanksgiving break.