A strong first half showing by the Butler men’s basketball team was not enough to stop No. 7 Louisville as they defeated the Bulldogs 69-53.
Butler coach Brad Stevens said the team lagged in the latter part of the game, and that loss of momentum showed on the scoreboard.
“We had a lot of guys do a lot of good things for about 30 minutes,” Stevens said.
Throughout the first half, both teams fought for almost every point, with aggressive rebounding and pressure on both ends and during in-bound passes. Chase Stigall landed a string of three-point shots and finished with 11 points. He was second on the team in points after Khyle Marshall, who tallied 20.
Kyle Kuric led the Cardinals with 17 points and teammate Chris Smith had 15.
While Andrew Smith used his height to block some shots, he fouled early and finished with only four points. Chrishawn Hopkins was also less of a force, scoring only four as well. They had 16 and 12 points against Chattanooga, respectively.
While he didn’t put up many points, Stevens said he has told Hopkins in front of the entire team that he has the potential to be great.
Butler (1-2) led steadily until the Cardinals (3-0) pulled within one point at just over the one-minute mark. Jared Swopshire scored with 2.4 seconds remaining to give Louisville a 29-28 lead.
Louisville had 20 points in the paint to Butler’s four, but the Bulldogs were able to grab eight points off turnovers.
The teams fought back and forth in the first part of the second half until a layup by Kuric at 11:24 grabbed a 45-41 lead for the Cardinals.
Shots continued not to fall the Bulldogs’ way, and Louisville eventually widened the gap to win by 16 points.
Marshall said while the team can grow and make strides, the players need to focus on finishing games strongly.
“We let our foot off the gas a little at the end,” he said.
Stevens said facing a ranked team this early in the season is difficult, but that it was no excuse.
“We’re throwing these guys to the wolves,” he said. “But your schedule doesn’t stop you from playing consistently. That’s what we’ve got to get better at.”
Louisville now leads Butler 6-5 in the all-time series. The Cardinals claimed an 88-73 victory the last time the two faced off.
While the margin between the two teams was almost identical this year and last, Stevens likened last year’s meeting to “being in a heavy rainstorm.”
He said they were more prepared this year.
“This year we competed,” he said.
Butler will next face Savannah State on Nov. 21 and Gardner-Webb on Nov. 23. Both games tip off at 7 p.m. in Hinkle Fieldhouse.