FLY-BY: Hanover sophomore Kyle James passes out of the post as Butler center Andrew Smith (44) defends during Tuesday’s matchup at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Panthers played well and trailed by only nine early in the second half before faling 97-73 to the Division I Bulldogs. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
FLY-BY: Hanover sophomore Kyle James passes out of the post as Butler center Andrew Smith (44) defends during Tuesday’s matchup at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The Panthers played well and trailed by only nine early in the second half before faling 97-73 to the Division I Bulldogs. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
INDIANAPOLIS - For a brief moment Hanover allowed itself to think about possibly pulling an upset of a top-flight Division I basketball program on the road.

Then reality set in.

Butler, it of two recent national runner-up finishes and a dominating win over North Carolina just last week, held just a nine-point lead over Division III Hanover in the opening minutes of the second half.

The Bulldogs rallied - thanks to a tongue-lashing by coach Brad Stevens - to pull away 97-73 over Hanover in a regular-season matchup Tuesday at venerable Hinkle Fieldhouse but not before the Panthers walked away feeling like they had stood toe-to-toe with a burgeoning national power.

"All things considered I think we played pretty well," said senior Ryan Nowicki, a Westfield native who spends his summers coaching at Butler's basketball camps. "We did what we wanted to do and stayed in the game. We represented ourselves well."

The game was Hanover's first regular-season matchup against a Division I foe in 13 years when the Panthers traveled to Murray State during the 1998-99 season. They had also previously played Butler back in the 1994-95 season.

Two years ago Hanover faced Butler on the same floor in an exhibition and although they were scrappy, the Panthers were thoroughly out-classed in an 80-41 loss in which no Hanover player reached double figures in scoring.

Tuesday's game looked like it would start out the same away. The Bulldogs scored on an alley-oop dunk by Khyle Marshall off the opening tip and ripped off 10-straight points to set the early tone.

Butler (4-2) built a 19-5 lead before Hanover finally got on track and the Panthers started chipping away. Over the final 25 minutes of the first half Hanover outscored its bigger competitor 33-30 to trail only 45-35.

One of the keys to the comeback was the fact that these Panthers simply weren't intimidated. Nowicki and fellow seniors Drake Hendricks and Brian Gunter played in the exhibition two years ago while Indianapolis natives Tim Bass and Kyle James have played in Hinkle several times.

"Unlike in the exhibition, we came back. We fell behind early (tonight) and I think we got caught up in the moment," Hanover coach Jon Miller said. "We were kind of teetering there in the first half when it could have gotten ugly but we finally got some defensive stops and hit a couple of shots to get back into the game."

Hanover (3-1) actually cut the margin to eight on a Nowicki 3-pointer just before halftime but Butler took the 10-point lead into the lockerroom when Kellen Dunham hit a pair of free throws with 19 seconds left.

Six-foot-11 senior Andrew Smith pushed the lead back to 12 for Butler with a layup in the opening minutes of the second half but James answered with a 3-pointer on the other end as Hanover closed the gap to nine (47-38) just 17 seconds into the period.

Nowicki admitted that James' shot got he and his teammates thinking upset.

"Even when we got it to eight in the first half and 10 at halftime we all felt good. We had started slow but we found that we could play with them," Nowicki said. "Then when Kyle hit that three I felt we definitely had the momentum; we just had to get some stops. We just couldn't get those stops."

James' trey, one of 12 Hanover hit in the game, prompted a quick timeout by Stevens who let his team know his displeasure. Whatever Stevens said worked. Butler emerged from the timeout and promptly took over the game.

Over the next 13 minutes of clock the Bulldogs outscored their pesky visitors 33-12 to build the largest lead of the game at 80-50 with 7:43 to play. Hanover recovered from the haymaker to pull within 19 with just under three minutes left but the damage was done.

"I felt like they jumped on us pretty early but once we got our feet underneath us I thought we played pretty well," Nowicki said. "We talked at halftime that we wanted to get off to a better start. I thought we did a better job offensively in the second half but they kind of had their way with us defensively."

Miller admitted that the primary difference between his Division III team and the Division I Bulldogs is size. Hanover has nobody taller than 6-foot-6 on its roster. Butler, meanwhile, has four players at least 6-foot-8.

"With the team we have I thought that if we just ran our offense and executed we could have some success," Miller said. "Obviously there was a size difference but I thought our guards played very well."

One person who came away impressed by Hanover was Stevens. The Butler coach played under Miller when they both were at DePauw University and they have remained close.

While Stevens was complimentary of Hanover's performance after the exhibition two years ago, he had nothing but good things to say about the Panthers after Tuesday's real game.

"I told Jon after the game that he has really done a nice thing with that program. That's a different team than the one that came in here two years ago," Stevens said. "It doesn't surprise me. When I played at DePauw he was an assistant for two years and he is an excellent coach. I should probably avoid scheduling him during the regular season. They run good stuff, they tested us in a lot of ways.

"We'll face a few teams that run pure motion but not many do anymore," Stevens said. "That was really good, pure old-fashioned motion that Jon had them running."

The loss was Hanover's first of the season but the game had little to do with wins and losses. For Hanover's players it was a chance that many felt they would never get - to play in a real Division I basketball game.

Shawe graduate Michael Kring, a sophomore guard at Hanover, saw just six minutes of action and did not take a shot but said just getting a chance to play in the game is something he will always remember.

"Coming to Hanover you don't expect to get to play in the place they filmed 'Hoosiers,' Kring said. "It felt really good to get a chance to get on the floor and play against a Division I opponent. It was really cool."

The 5-foot-10 Kring got a chance to run the point while he was in the game and also found himself guarding players in the post on several occasions, most of whom were at least half-a-foot taller than Kring.

"It's completely different. Going from high school to Division III the game speeds up like 10 notches," Kring said. "When you go from Division III to Division I it speeds up 10 more notches. Everybody is bigger, faster, longer and more athletic. Sometimes you just have to get down and do what you've got to do."

Hanover returns to action on Saturday when it hosts a team closer to its own size when Manchester visits Collier Arena for the Panthers' Heartland Conference opener. But facing Butler in Hinkle Fieldhouse is a memory that will not quickly fade.

"We feel that anytime we get to bring our team to Hinkle Fieldhouse it's a great opportunity for our players," Miller said. "We have a high number of central Indiana players on our team and they understand the significance of playing in Hinkle. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to play the game."


Tuesday's Hanover Boxscore

at Indianapolis



Gunter 1-7 0-0 3, Marks 1-1 2-2 4, Bass 3-9 0-0 6, Hendricks 1-5 0-0 3, Nowicki 6-12 2-2 15, Kring 0-0 0-0 0, Black 1-1 1-2 3, James 2-7 0-0 6, Wehner 3-4 0-0 9, Steinhart 2-5 1-2 7, Bingham 0-1 0-0 0, Van Kleunen 6-11 1-2 15, Robinson 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 27-65 7-11 73.

BUTLER (4-2)

Jones 5-7 0-0 10, Marshall 7-12 5-6 19, Smith 5-7 3-6 13, Clarke 6-8 2-2 19, Dunham 4-8 3-3 12, Smeathers 1-3 0-0 3, Morgan 2-2 0-0 5, Barlow 0-0 0-0 0, Fromm 0-2 3-4 3, Aldridge 2-7 2-5 7, El. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Em. Kampen 0-0 0-0 0, Woods 2-2 0-0 4, Stigall 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 35-59 18-26 97.

Halftime-Butler 45-35. 3-Point Goals-Hanover 12-32 (Wehner 3-4, Van Kleunen 2-5, Steinhart 2-5, James 2-6, Hendricks 1-2, Nowicki 1-3, Gunter 1-4, Bass 0-3), Butler 9-18 (Clarke 5-6, Morgan 1-1, Aldridge 1-2, Smeathers 1-3, Dunham 1-4, Fromm 0-1, Smith 0-1). Fouled Out-None. Rebounds-Hanover 22 (James, Nowicki 4), Butler 42 (Jones 8). Assists-Hanover 20 (Bass 10), Butler 19 (Aldridge, Clarke, Dunham, Jones, Smith 3). Total Fouls-Hanover 18, Butler 16. A-5,547. Next Game - Hanover hosts Manchester Saturday