CHANUTE, Kan. – One day after breaking into the NJCAA national rankings, the Butler men were tested in a 73-71 road victory over Neosho County on Wednesday.
No. 11 Butler (11-0 overall) edged Neosho by two points in both contests this season. The Grizzlies won the home meeting 66-64 over the Panthers back on Nov. 11.
Kyle Steward hit 1-of-2 foul shots to put Butler up 73-71 with 12.4 seconds left. However, Neosho (3-9) failed to score on the other end, as Lamar Wofford blocked a BJ Jenkins shot attempt to seal the win.
The Grizzlies took a 38-28 lead into the break when Robert Joiner hit a three-pointer before the buzzer. Derrick Byrd scored all of his team-high 17 points in the first half to help Butler to the 10-point edge.
Butler took its largest lead at 12 points with a Lamar Wofford basket to start the second half.
The Grizzlies maintained a slim second-half lead on Neosho before the Panthers made a late run. Travis House hit a three-pointer, then Jacolby Harris scored inside and added a free throw to put the Grizzlies up 65-56 with 7:07 left.
A Neosho 8-0 run – fueled by consecutive three-pointers – pulled the Panthers within one, 65-64, at the 5:08 mark. Butler would push the lead back to five, 72-67, as Kyle Steward hit two foul shots and Lamar Wofford made 1-of-2 free throws with 2:48 to play.
Neosho's Joseph Acuil answered with a dunk, then later was fouled on a made field goal to cut the margin to 72-71 with 1:12 to play. However, Acuil missed the foul shot.
In addition to his 17 points, Byrd had seven assists and seven rebounds for Butler. Kyle Steward scored 10, Lamar Wofford had nine points and seven rebounds, while Chris Howell and Robert Joiner finished with eight points each. Acuil, who has committed to play at Baylor, led all scorers with 23 points, 16 rebounds and six blocks. BJ Jenkins added 20 points for Neosho.
Butler hosts Cowley (1-9 overall) on Saturday at the Power Plant, with the tipoff at 7 p.m. The Tigers are currently on a six-game losing streak.