Nov. 13, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Butler celebrated its recent accomplishments before Saturday's season-opener.

Then the Bulldogs opened a whole new chapter in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse.

After unveiling the first Final Four banner in the state's oldest college basketball arena, Shelvin Mack scored 20 points and Andrew Smith had a career-high 10 to lead No. 17 Butler past Marian 83-54.

It was a game everyone wanted to be a part of.

"To me this is a historic event," said Marian coach John Grimes, who was on the bench when the Knights won at Butler in 1980. "We were here for a certain occasion and to play basketball and we understand that, and I think everybody respects what Butler did last year."

Grimes' players were so impressed they also broke into applause during the five-minute pregame ceremony that featured radio calls from Butler's NCAA tournament upsets over Syracuse, Kansas State and Michigan State. Each succeeding victory drew louder cheers from the crowd of 6,825 - slightly larger than last season's opening day crowd.

And before pulling off the blue covering to reveal a banner that reads "National Finalist", fans clapped in unison - rekindling the image of a locker room scene from the movie "Hoosiers", a scene that was to have taken place in Hinkle and that has been played out many times on the Pacers scoreboard about six miles away.

"It was really cool because I didn't know they were going to do the radio stuff," Butler point guard Ronald Nored said. "I was trying to think about where I was when those calls were being made. It definitely energized the crowd, and that energized us."

Otherwise, it was business as usual for the Bulldogs with a few new twists.

As usual, Butler took control and dominated the second half. Coach Brad Stevens improved to 4-0 in season-openers and Butler won its 19th straight at home.

What was different?

Well, Gordon Hayward wasn't around after becoming first Butler player ever selected in the first round of the NBA draft.

They didn't miss him Saturday.

Butler proved more dominant in the middle than it was from the perimeter, a major change for a team that has routinely relied on 3-point shooting, and they did that despite getting only six points from Matt Howard. In the first half, the Bulldogs actually had more dunks (four) than 3s (three).

There were reasons for the changes.

Marian, an NAIA school from Indianapolis, was smaller and slower against a Bulldogs team that has become a regular in the Top 25. The Knights also scheduled the game as an exhibition, meaning it won't count on their official record.

Jordan Tucker had 11 points, the only Marian player to score in double figures.

Plus, the Bulldogs got help from some new faces.

Smith, a 6-foot-11 sophomore who played sparingly last season, finished with 10 points and four rebounds. Athletic 6-7 freshman Khyle Marshall finished with nine points, three rebounds, two blocks and one steal in 14 minutes.

"Khyle has made a lot of progress from the Hanover game today," Stevens said.

But the Bulldogs still had some of their old trademarks.

They shot 61.3 percent from the field, finished 8 of 24 from beyond the arc, committed only six turnovers and forced Marian into 16.

It was good enough Saturday, though Stevens knows his team must improve fast as they get into the heart of its schedule.

The Bulldogs will be Tuesday night's opening act in Louisville's new arena. They visit Siena on Nov. 23, face Duke in a rematch of the title game on Dec. 4, visit Xavier Dec. 9 and host Stanford Dec. 18.

So Saturday's rout was a rare opportunity that Butler did not waste.

It broke to a 19-10 lead in the first eight minutes, extended the lead to 30-16 with 6:51 to go in the first half, and then survived Marian's 12-3 run that made it 33-28.

"The first 15 minutes, I thought, was as good as we've played in quite a while," Grimes said.

The Bulldogs, behind Mack, scored the final nine points of the half to rebuild a 42-28 lead and went on a 10-0 run early in the second half to kick off the second celebration of the day.

"It wasn't that difficult to focus on basketball today, especially since it's the first game of the season," Mack said. "We wanted to show them something."