KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Butler had a simple explanation for the collapse that ended its four-game winning streak.
“When it comes down to it, I just feel like we got out-toughed in the second half,” Butler forward Kameron Woods said after the 15th-ranked Bulldogs’ 67-55 loss at Tennessee.
Butler (8-2) led 37-25 after Kellen Dunham’s 3-pointer in the opening minute of the second half, but Josh Richardson scored the game’s next eight points to spark a 12-0 run that tied the score.
The Bulldogs weren’t the same the rest of the way. Richardson scored 18 of his 20 points after halftime and Kevin Punter added 18 points as Tennessee (4-3) outscored Butler 42-21 in the second half.
Butler shot 6 of 23 and committed nine turnovers after halftime.
“It hurts when teams like that hit 3s,” Punter said. “It kind of takes the life out of you. But you’ve just got to stay with it if you want to win. We stayed with it, we kept grinding, they coughed it up a few times and we capitalized.”
Dunham scored 16 points, but only two of those came in the game’s final 19 minutes. Kelan Martin added 13 for Butler. Woods had seven points and matched a career high with 16 rebounds.
Butler struggled on both ends of the floor in the second half. The Bulldogs couldn’t take care of the ball on offense and couldn’t stop anyone on defense, as Tennessee shot 59.3 percent (16 of 27) over the final 20 minutes.
“We couldn’t get a stop in the second half,” Butler interim coach Chris Holtmann said. “I think if you said, `Hey, what was the most disappointing part of the game,’ it’s the fact we got out-toughed in some areas and we just could not get a stop in the second half. We just weren’t able to do it. What has been our bread and butter through the first (part) of the season was a real liability, and that was our half-court defense tonight.”
Tennessee missed seven consecutive shots during one stretch late in the first half and trailed 34-25 at the break. The Volunteers rallied to tie the game at 37-all on Derek Reese’s putback with 13:57 left.
Moore later put the Vols up 50-49 for their first lead since it was 6-5 in the game’s opening minutes. That started a 6-0 run.
After Butler’s Andrew Chrabascz hit a 3-pointer to cut Tennessee’s lead to 58-55 with 2:40 left, Reese answered by banking in a 3-pointer to start a game-ending 9-0 run.
“Thank God it went in,” Reese said. “The bank is open on Sundays sometimes.”
Butler: Butler gave up the most points it has allowed all season. Butler had held eight of its first nine opponents below 60 points.
Tennessee: The Vols used their sixth different starting lineup in seven games. Devon Baulkman, a junior-college transfer, made his first career start and had three points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
Butler entered the day with a turnover margin of plus-5.9, but it committed 14 turnovers while forcing only seven against Tennessee.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“I don’t know that I’ve ever been more proud of a group of guys than I was today, just because you’re playing a nationally ranked team with the tradition and history of Butler. The first half didn’t go our way. Early in the second half, it didn’t start exactly right and they just battled, clawed and found a way.”-Tennessee coach Donnie Tyndall
Butler: Saturday vs. Indiana in Crossroads Classic at Indianapolis.
Tennessee: Wednesday at North Carolina State.