Butler coach Brad Stevens previewed the upcoming UE-Butler game, the teams’ 118th meeting all-time, which tips at 1 p.m. Saturday in Hinkle Fieldhouse.
In six seasons as the Bulldogs’ head coach, Butler has won four Horizon League regular-season titles and made it to two Final Fours.
UE has, however, taken the last two meetings versus the Bulldogs — both in overtime and by three points. Before that, Butler had won seven in a row.
How do you approach the rivalry aspect of the game? Do you talk about it with your team? “We won’t talk about it at all. I think one of the things we try to talk about with our team is that every team and every new year is a different, unique opportunity, so we don’t spend a lot of time talking about necessarily long-standing rivals or anything like that. I think we just try to focus on the game and task at hand.”
What kind of atmosphere do you expect Saturday? “I expect a good atmosphere. Obviously Evansville’s a really good program with a great coach, and one that we greatly respect and that people in the state of Indiana greatly respect and look forward to state teams playing against each other.”
What’s made UE difficult to play against in the past? “They’re just really well-coached. They’ve got a great system, and they play really hard on both sides of the floor. They do things the right way. You have to play well to beat them. There are no two ways around that. Last year I thought we played well, and they beat us. Two years I thought we did not play well, and they beat us. The bottom line is, we’ve got to play as well as we possibly can to end up getting what we want in the end.”
How have you seen your team perform in practice this week since the win over Indiana? “Same as normal. I haven’t seen a big change in them or anything. I didn’t expect to. They’re a pretty mature group of guys.”
What do you feel will be key in Saturday’s game? “I think anytime you’re playing in a game like this, shooting’s obviously going to be a big part of it because the team that makes those tough shots – that’s able to string together a few scores in a row or keep the other team from stringing together a few scores in a row has the advantage. But at the end of the day, I think there’s just so many things you can evaluate in a game. You’ve got to maximize possessions, whether it’s rebounding or minimizing turnovers or taking advantage of the good shots you do get. You’ve got to maximize those against a really well-coached team like Evansville.”
Butler plays in Evansville next year. Any idea what happens after that? “I don’t know. I know we’re winding (the current contract) down at some point soon, but I don’t know when. I haven’t looked at it recently…I think the biggest thing for us is, every year we try to evaluate and decide what’s best for us moving forward and what’s best for our schedule. Obviously, the whole time I’ve been here, we’ve always played Evansville, and they’ve been great games. Nobody could respect them more as a program from a coaching perspective than I do. But at the end of the day, we’re going to evaluate all those different things on a year-by-year or at least two years ahead of time basis.”