No. 19 Butler understands what Indiana basketball is all about — beating those in-state rivals.
Andrew Smith and Rotnei Clarke each scored 20 points, leading the team that took down then-No. 1 Indiana a week earlier past pesky Evansville 75-67 on Saturday — a game that was every bit as challenging as any of those the Bulldogs have played against higher-profile opponents this season.
"The hardest part isn't necessarily those games," coach Brad Stevens said when asked about playing the likes of North Carolina and Illinois this season. "It's playing teams like Evansville, like Ball State, long-standing rivals in this state. So you've got to be on your 'A' game every time you play these guys and that's something a lot of people don't realize."
A year ago, Butler was the team taking it on the chin from its Indiana neighbors.
The Bulldogs lost at Evansville (7-5) in overtime, lost at Indiana, lost at Ball State, lost to Valparaiso twice and won only two games against Indiana schools — 67-65 over Purdue at the Crossroads Classic and 75-54 against Indiana State at home.
This season, they've changed course.
The Bulldogs (9-2) beat Hanover, Ball State and IUPUI all by double digits in a three-game stretch. Now, they have back-to-back victories over the Hoosiers and Purple Aces. Saturday's win gave Butler a five-game sweep over in-state schools, and with the Atlantic 10 Conference opener scheduled for Jan. 9 at St. Joseph's, the Bulldogs won't face another Indiana school unless it comes in a postseason tournament.
"It's better than last year," Stevens said, drawing laughter. "It's important to me and it's important to these guys to play well against the teams in our state because we can play well against a team like Evansville and lose."
Indiana St. 87, Mississippi 85, OT: Manny Arop scored a game-high 27 points to lead Indiana State (6-3) to an overtime win over Mississippi (8-2) in a quarterfinal game of the Diamond Head Classic.
Jake Odum had 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists for the Sycamores. Justin Gant and R.J. Mahurin scored 12 points apiece and Dawon Cummings had 10 points for Indiana State, which will meet No. 18 San Diego State in today's semifinals. San Diego State defeated San Francisco 80-58.
Loyola 54, St. Peter's 49: Ben Averkamp scored 17 points, 13 from the foul line, to lead Loyola (8-3) to a victory over St. Peter's (5-6).
Miami (Ohio) 82, Illinois-Chicago 70: Will Sullivan scored a career-high 16 points and Miami (Ohio) (4-6) snapped a four-game losing streak to beat Illinois-Chicago (9-3). Gary Talton scored 15 points for the Flames.
DePaul 69, UMBC 61: Cleveland Melvin scored 24 points and DePaul (9-3) defeated Maryland-Baltimore County (2-10) to extend its winning streak to seven games. The winning streak marks the longest for DePaul since the Blue Demons won nine straight during the 1993-94 season.
Illinois State 83, Austin Peay 57: Jackie Carmichael had 18 points and 12 rebounds as Illinois State (9-3) concluded nonconference play with a victory over Austin Peay (4-8).
Drake 74, Eastern Illinois 56: Micah Mason had 19 points and six assists and Drake (6-5) continued its torrid 3-point shooting during a victory over Eastern Illinois (3-10). Sherman Blanford had 18 points and seven rebounds for Eastern Illinois.
Houston 79, Chicago St. 57: Joseph Young scored 24 points and TaShawn Thomas scored 21 to lead Houston (9-3) to a victory over Chicago State (3-11). Clarke Rosenberg had 16 points and eight rebounds for Chicago State.
Temple 83, No. 3 Syracuse 79: Khalif Wyatt scored 33 points and Anthony Lee had 21 — both career highs — and Temple (9-2), despite not making a field goal over the final 5 1-2 minutes, upset Syracuse (10-1) in the Chevrolet Gotham Classic at Madison Square Garden.
No. 9 Kansas 74, No. 7 Ohio St. 66: Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore scored 22 points and Kansas (10-1) proved it was more than just a bully at home by beating Ohio State (9-2).
It was the third victory for the Jayhawks in little more than a year over the Buckeyes. Kansas won a 64-62 thriller in last year's NCAA semifinals.
No. 12 Missouri 82, No. 10 Illinois 73: Laurence Bowers had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Missouri (10-1) over Illinois (12-1) in the annual Braggin' Rights game.
No. 11 Cincinnati 68, Wright State 58: JaQuon Parker scored 16 of his 21 points in the second half, and Cincinnati (12-0) remained unbeaten by overcoming another poor start for a victory over Wright State (8-4).
No. 15 Georgetown 65, American 48: Otto Porter had 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 15 Georgetown (10-1) pulled away late in the first half in a win over D.C. neighbor American (4-8).
South Dakota State 70, No. 16 New Mexico 65: Nate Wolters scored 28 points and handed out seven assists, leading South Dakota State (10-4) to an upset of New Mexico(12-1).
No. 20 Michigan St. 67, Texas 56: Derrick Nix had 25 points and 11 rebounds to help Michigan State (11-2) surge past Texas (7-5).
No. 23 North Carolina 97, McNeese State 63: P.J. Hairston scored a career-high 20 points to help North Carolina (9-3) beat McNeese State (6-4).
No. 24 Oklahoma State 78, Tennessee Tech 42: Freshman Phil Forte scored 22 points to lead Oklahoma State (10-1) to a victory over Tennessee Tech (6-6).
No. 25 N.C. State 92, St. Bonaventure 73: C.J. Leslie scored a career-high 33 points to lead North Carolina State (9-2) past St. Bonaventure (7-4).