Men’s basketball: Match-up against Wright State awaits

The Butler men’s basketball team knows it will be playing Wright State in the opening round of the Horizon League tournament on Tuesday.

The Bulldogs (17-13, 11-7) are likely aware that they will need to get off to a better start against the Raiders (13-18, 7-11) than they did against Valparaiso on Friday.

“I really didn’t mind our energy or effort,” coach Brad Stevens said after Butler’s 71-59 loss to the league-champion Crusaders. “We can’t give away plays if we want to continue playing.

“We know that moving forward, and I don’t think it’s a huge secret.”

The Bulldogs did not record a field goal against the Crusaders until just after the 11-minute mark in the first half.

The result was a 10-point deficit at halftime that Butler was never able to overcome.

Butler needed a victory against Valparaiso to secure the No. 2 seed and a bye through the first two rounds of the upcoming conference tournament.

Now, instead of getting that bye, the Bulldogs will be taking on the Raiders as the No. 5 seed.

“We can’t change the result of what happened in this game,” sophomore forward Khyle Marshall said. “We’re just going to come back and practice as hard as we can, get better and look forward to the tournament.”

While Stevens said he would be scoreboard watching after the loss to Valparaiso, he added that he would specifically be watching the games of Butler’s most likely opponents in the first round of the tournament.

The rest of the Horizon League made sure that Butler paid for its loss, as Cleveland State, Detroit and Wisconsin-Milwaukee all won their weekend contests and surpassed the Bulldogs in the standings.

Wright State, the No. 8 seed, received a date with Butler after all was said and done.

The Bulldogs were victorious in both of the two regular season games between the teams this season.

In the contest at Wright State on Jan. 6, Butler pulled out a 63-62 victory thanks to a late free throw by senior guard Ronald Nored.

Nored, Marshall and junior center Andrew Smith all scored double-digit points, with Smith’s 19 leading the way.

They were all outdone by Wright State junior guard Julius Mays, who posted 24 points.

The second game between the teams took place on Feb. 2 and saw a 64-53 Butler win.

Sophomore guard Chrishawn Hopkins led the Bulldogs with 13 points, while Wright State junior forward Armond Battle recorded 18.

Mays has provided the Raiders with much of their offensive firepower this season.

For a team that averages the second fewest points in the league, Mays is the only player averaging more than 10 points per game. He also leads the team in free throw shooting and is second in 3-point shooting.

While Butler will have to focus on containing Mays, the Bulldogs will also need to work on their offensive output. The 59 points against Valparaiso was the team’s lowest total in a loss since a 53-42 defeat at Wisconsin-Milwaukee on Jan. 26.

The team is “not dwelling” on its showing at Valparaiso, though, and is “ready for the tournament,” Marshall said.

Butler will not have the No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season, meaning the Bulldogs will have to win four games in eight days in order to capture the title.

This is not something Butler is unfamiliar with, though.

“It’s hard to get to the Final Four, too,” Stevens said.

 

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