BY MATTHEW VANTRYON | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
The Butler men’s basketball team faced Seton Hall on Wednesday night in the first round of the Big East Conference tournament, hoping to ride the momentum of Saturday’s win versus the Pirates.
However, Butler’s shooters struggled, and a late surge fell short. The Bulldogs wrote the final chapter of their season with a 51-50 loss.
The first half saw both teams struggling mightily on the offensive end. After scoring 19 in the first half on Saturday, sophomore guard Kellen Dunham scored zero points in the half Wednesday night.
Butler shot 35 percent from the field, but only 1-of-11 from behind the arc.
Senior forward Khyle Marshall led all scorers with 10 points in the half.
Seton Hall struggled just as much from the floor, shooting just 32 percent.
The teams had 12 combined turnovers in the half.
Seton Hall began the second half on an 11-0 run to take a 12-point lead. The Bulldogs failed to score until nearly eight minutes into the second period.
Butler faced as great as a 13-point deficit, but the Bulldogs wouldn’t go away.
Butler went on a 13-3 run to cut the deficit to two with just over three minutes to play.
Dunham then stole the ball and dunked it to cut the deficit to one, but a turnover forced Butler to foul the Pirates with three seconds to play.
Junior guard Alex Barlow missed a desperation heave to close the book on Butler’s season.
Despite the loss, Butler coach Brandon Miller praised his team’s resiliency.
“I loved the resiliency in our guys, the toughness in our guys,” he said. “Like I told them, some nights just aren’t your night.”
Butler shot 6-of-13 from the free throw line in the game.
Dunham and Barlow finished with a combined seven points, shooting 3-of-21 from the floor.
The season began in promising fashion for the Bulldogs. They finished their non-conference slate with a 10-2 mark, with their only two losses coming in the Old Spice Classic.
After a tense three-point overtime defeat in the conference opener versus nationally-ranked Villanova, many were excited by the prospects of what Butler might do in their first season in the Big East.
Unfortunately, the season quickly went south.
Butler proceeded to drop its next five conference games before winning in overtime against Marquette at home.
Butler then dropped nine of its next 10 contests.
The methods of defeat varied. Some games were nail-biters, while others were blowouts. Regardless of the fashion, the number in the loss column quickly grew, and the Bulldogs soon found themselves in the cellar of the conference.
The insertion of freshman forward Andrew Chrabascz into the starting lineup midway through the season sparked the Bulldogs on offense, but not enough to make a sustainable difference on the court.
The Bulldogs won their final two regular season games by a combined 50 points to go into the conference tournament with some momentum, but they fell short on the big stage.
In spite of the team’s struggles, several individuals had impressive seasons.
Dunham stepped up, averaging nearly 17 points per game this season. He scored a career-high 32 points in the Old Spice Classic versus Washington State.
Dunham was named to the All-Big East second team.
Junior forward Kameron Woods led the Big East with nine rebounds per game.
Chrabascz stepped up midway though the season and finished his freshman campaign with an average of 6.2 points per game. He was named to the Big East All-Rookie team.
Marshall finished his Butler career with a solid season, scoring nearly 15 points per game. His season was highlighted by a 30-point performance versus Washington State.