Jarrod Jones spun around Matt Howard on Wednesday night's opening possession and it appeared that Ball State University would be able to compete with Butler University.
Jones laid the ball in and the Cardinals had a 2-0 lead on the No. 23 team in the country. But Shelvin Mack made sure the advantage was short-lived, hitting three 3-pointers to lead the Bulldogs on a 10-0 run.
"Butler came out and hit us early," coach Billy Taylor said. "I think our team got down, got deflated and didn't do a good job rebounding from that run."
Ball State didn't make a field goal for eight minutes and never recovered. The Bulldogs coasted to a 59-38 win at Worthen Arena, their 14th consecutive win against Indiana schools.
The Cardinals struggled shooting all night, but it was pronounced in the first 20 minutes. Ball State only had 11 points at halftime and shot 19 percent from the floor.
"We just wanted to come up and guard as well as we could," coach Brad Stevens said. "I think our guys really embraced the challenge of seeing what we could do each half."
Playing in front of 6,996 fans, their largest crowd of the season, forward Malik Perry said the team may have been too excited.
"I think we just wanted to perform and do more than we should," Perry said. "We should have stuck to coach's plan."
Butler was also cognizant of the large crowd and was pleased to take them out of the equation.
"It was a good night, with that crowd and that student section, to get off to a 16-4 run," coach Brad Stevens said.
Perry didn't see the early 12-point deficit as insurmountable, but the Cardinals never found an answer to Gordon Hayward, the Bulldogs' six-foot-nine shooting guard. The sophomore scored 15 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
"He's a good player, he's going to score," Perry said. "It's not necessarily stopping a good player; it's trying to contain him."
Mack matched Hayward's point total and had four assists.
As Ball State fought to stay in the game, Taylor turned to his bench for some life. He found sixth man Pierre Sneed and John Green, a surprise contributor. Previously, Green had played only one minute all year. Wednesday night, the freshman walk-on played 21 minutes.
"I noticed we needed to pick it up," Green said. "I tried to provide [a spark] on the defensive end the best that I could."
Green scored three points, had two rebounds and one steal.
Perry led the Cardinals with 11 points and six rebounds. Randy Davis had four assists off the bench, but did not score.
Butler was able to find its spark early, an impressive feat after losing to No. 18 Clemson University by a point in California late Sunday night.
"I think it woke us up," Mack said. "We got to get back to the basics, got back to the details."
Taylor said his team will be looking to do just that, as Ball State tries to snap its three-game losing streak next week at Indiana State University.
"Our defense has still got to improve," he said. "Our understanding of personnel from the opponents and scouting reports and executing on the floor has to improve. We have a lot to work on."