CHANUTE, Kan. — A shorthanded Butler squad overcame a 13-point deficit for a 67-64 road win at Neosho County on Wednesday.
Russell Smith led the Grizzlies (7-8 overall, 4-8 conference) with 20 points and made 5-of-6 free throws in the final 12 seconds to ice the win. Justin Criddle had a double-double with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while Karlon McSpadden added 19 points for Butler, who played with just seven players.
The contest featured five ties and three lead changes in the final 6:34, but Butler made 6-of-8 foul shots in the last 39 seconds to hold off the Panthers.
Neosho opened the game with a 14-1 run, which was its largest lead in the contest. Despite shooting just 26 percent (9-of-35) in the first half, Butler still managed to climb back within six points on three separate occasions in the final 3:15 of the half.
A mid-range jumper by Jared Armstrong with 39 seconds left in the half put the Grizzlies down 29-23 heading into the locker room.
Neosho went back up by 10 to start the second half before Butler started to chip away at the lead. Down 42-36, Russell Smith would hit a three-pointer, then Justin Criddle made two free throws to pull the Grizzlies within one with 7:38 to play.
Just over a minute later, Karlon McSpadden drained a trey from the right wing for the game’s first tie at 44-all. Butler and Neosho then exchanged three-pointers, with the Grizzlies getting treys from Criddle and McSpadden.
After a Neosho field goal, McSpadden then hit another three from the far corner for Butler’s first lead at 53-52 with 3:47 left. The Panthers would eventually re-take the lead at 57-55 with 2:33 remaining.
Butler then scored six straight points on field goals by Criddle, McSpadden and Justin Moore for a 61-57 lead at the 1:19 mark.
The Grizzlies would then close out the game from the foul line, with Smith’s two free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining putting Butler up 67-64. Neosho’s Braden Larcom’s three-pointer from about 30 feet out hit the backboard as time expired.
Butler shot just 35 percent (23-of-65) from the field, while Neosho made 40 percent (24-of-60). The Panthers were led in scoring by Austin Downing’s 22 points, while Lual Dung had 17.
Butler will host Colby in a 7:30 p.m. contest at the Power Plant on Saturday. The game will mark the halfway point in the Grizzlies’ 26-game conference schedule.