Coffeyville outlasts the Butler men's basketball team, 76-66

Butler now has dropped back-to-back games and will most likely fall out of the Top 25 on Monday.

Lionel Tipton
Butler's Noah Thomasson (21) drives to the basket in Saturday's 76-66 loss to the Coffeyville Red Ravens. The Sophomore led Butler with 24 points on 6 of 10 shooting.

EL DORADO, Kansas —When a team faces the second-ranked team in the nation, expectations aren’t usually very high. 

But the Butler men’s team refused to give in to Coffeyville on Saturday night. 

The Grizzlies climbed out of an early deficit and actually led the Red Ravens briefly late in the first half. However, Coffeyville broke a 41-41 tie early in the second half and fought off Butler rallies for a 76-66 victory at the Power Plant.

The closeness of the game buoyed Butler coach Kyle Fisher’s optimism.

“We’re good enough to beat team,” he said afterward. “We weren’t (Saturday night). We didn’t play well enough to win. They were the more physical team consistently around the basket, and (we) gave up nine offensive rebounds and had nine turnovers in the first half.”

The Grizzlies showed well in the first half, he said.

“We played well enough to go into halftime around tied,” Fisher said. “We didn’t get off to a good start. The first four minutes were really poor, then the last 35 seconds came back to really bite us. We had an uncontested layup that got block, then they ended up with a four-point swing on the other end.

“We’ve got to put a full 40 minutes together to beat a team the caliber of Coffeyville. We played tough for about 35 minutes. We were playing pretty well through a stretch of the second half; we just missed some wide-open shots.

“When you play a team that’s as good defensively as Coffeyville, when you get those open shots, you’ve got to be able to knock them down.”

A key part of the missed shots was shooting 11 percent (two of 18) from three-point range. That stat seemed to confound Fisher.

“It’s pretty uncharacteristic for us,” he said. “We’re leading the league in three-point percentage and had some open, clean looks throughout the second half especially, and (we) came up empty on them.

“They’re a really good defensive team and did a really good job guarding (three-point shots), but still, when you’re open you’ve got to hit a few of them to beat a high-level team.” 

The Grizzlies face a quick turnaround, playing host to Cloud County on Monday.

“We can’t dwell on this,” Fisher said. “We’ve got a chance to play a team that’s very capable on our floor again. We haven’t had two home games in a row in a really, really long time, if ever.

“We’ve got to get this taste out of our mouth and bounce back against a very capable Cloud team.”

Butler (11-4, 9-4) hit 50 percent from the field in the first half and only trailed 38-33 at the break. Despite Coffeyville’s decided height advantage, the Red Ravens only outrebounded the Grizzlies by five, 35-30. The majority of that difference was on the offensive glass, 14-10. 

Sophomore Noah Thomasson spearheaded the Butler attack, scoring 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half, preventing Coffeyville from pulling away. His two free throws with a minute to play cut the Red Ravens’ lead to 67-62. Thomasson hit all 12 of his free-throw attempts.

But after that, the Grizzlies were forced to foul to try to regain possession, and Coffeyville hit 9 of 12 free throws after that, widening the final margin.

Freshman DeeJuan Pruitt had a double-double for Butler of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Sophomore Shawn Hopkins also scored a dozen points. 

The whistles were active in the game, as each team was called for 24 fouls each, resulting in a total of 69 total free throws. 

The score might have even been closer had the Grizzlies shot better than 30 percent for the second half. Coffeyville wasn’t much better at 37 percent, opening the door slightly for Butler.

It’s no coincidence that Coffeyville’s leading scorers – sophomores Tylor Perry (19 points) and Bostyn Holt (13 points) and freshman Love Bettis (18 points) were a combined 19 of 25 on free throws.

Butler committed 20 turnovers in the game, leading to 24 Red Raven points. Coffeyville only committed 13 turnovers, resulting in 15 Butler points.

Whenever the Butler and Coffeyville men tangle, it is a family reunion of sorts for the coaches. Second-year Butler coach Kyle Fisher spent seven years as an assistant to veteran Red Ravens coach Jay Herkelman before taking over the Grizzlies. 

Herkelman said it’s difficult to face Fisher, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to win.

“It’s hard going against Fish,” Herkelman said. “All three games last year were like this, I mean, we know each other so well. We do a lot of similar things, so at time it’s really hard to score. We’re both obviously very competitive and are going to have our teams prepared for this game.

“But it’s hard; he was with me for seven years, and we had a good run while he was there. He’s doing a great job here.”

For his part, Fisher said games with Coffeyville are special.  

“A lot of good memories with the folks at Coffeyville,” he said. “Obviously, I’m thrilled to be here at Butler and really proud of what we’ve accomplished in our two years. It’s always an interesting game when we play Coffeyville, because traditionally it’s two really good programs (and) this year it’s two really good programs in my history with that program.”

Herkelman said his team has played well in the late going.

“We’ve been pretty good in the last 10 minutes of games,” he said. “Our depth starts to show a little bit better, and I think that was a little bit of a factor (Saturday night). Fortunately, down the stretch we also made some free throws.”

And Butler gave Herkelman’s team a battle to the end.

“We’ve got great kids in this program, and we will always play the right way and play hard and play to win all the way until the end,” Fisher said. “There’s a certain way you have to play to be a good team, and it doesn’t matter what the score is and how much time is left, we’re going to play to the level that it takes to win.”