Free Throw Fest Goes the Way of No. 21 Butler

Free Throw Fest Goes the Way of No. 21 Butler

EL DORADO, Kan. – The No. 21-ranked Butler Grizzlies eked out an 81-78 win over the Northwest Kansas Tech Mavericks at the Power Plant on Saturday afternoon.

Butler (15-4, 10-3 KJCCC) bounced back with a win after falling 77-58 last time out at Cowley. The Mavericks (7-13, 3-11) lost their third straight game.

The two games this season between Butler and NWKTC have been decided by a combined five points with Butler winning 76-74 on the road and 81-78 at home.

Neither team ever got into much of a rhythm as there were 65 combined free throws shot. Butler shot 72.7% (24-33) from the line with the Mavs shooting slightly better at 75% (24-32).

Charles McClennahan Jr. paced Butler with a career-high 23 points and career-high 13 rebounds. Jamichael Stillwell just missed out on a double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds. Jaquez Thornton scored 12 while AJ Williams led Butler with six assists. Khalil Arnold played for the first time since Nov. 29 at Coffeyville and knocked down two 3-pointers, totaling nine points.

Reigning KJCCC Player of the Week Keyishon Miller led all scorers with 26 for the Mavericks. He also had seven rebounds and five steals. Taiden Conner had 16 points for the Mavs.

NWKTC got out to an 11-3 lead quickly. They held the lead for the first 11:55 of the first half until Arnold knocked a three down off an assist from Williams as the Grizzlies took their first lead at 27-25. Butler got to halftime leading 44-39. They shot 3-15 from distance on the evening with all three makes coming in the first half.

Butler took its largest lead of the game, a 10-point lead just three minutes into the second half when AJ Williams made a free throw to make it 49-39. The Mavs continued to battle, trimming the Grizzly lead down to four with 12:57 remaining as Charles Fofanah's free throw made it 54-50 Butler. Butler eventually pushed the lead back to 10 when McClennahan Jr. hit a jump shot at the 8:38 mark to make it 65-55.

The Mavs would not go down without making things interesting. With just 1:38 left in the game, Miller converted a layup in the fast break following a steal to make it 75-73 Butler. Stillwell found McClennahan Jr. for a layup from the high post on Butler's next possession to make it a two-score game again but a three from Miller cut the deficit to one for the Mavs with 1:08 left.

Thornton hit a floater in the lane and knocked down two free throws over the final minute to ultimately secure the victory for Butler.

The Grizzlies return to action on Wednesday, traveling to Liberal to take on the Seward Saints with an 8 p.m. tipoff from The Greenhouse.