KYLE BEERY | SPORTS EDITOR
Antacids and basketball. Well, that is a pretty strange combination.
But Butler men’s basketball head coach Chris Holtmann can tie the two together.
After a close call against last-place Creighton University on Jan. 21, he said Tums are an essential for a Big East coach.
“You just keep plenty of bottles of Tums nearby, and I think (the stress of the Big East) is not too unlike what I feel like we have faced in other leagues,” Holtmann said.
Holtmann may have been in need of Tums midway through Sunday’s 77-57 rout of Seton Hall University (13-6, 3-4 Big East). But a 28-3 run fueled the No. 25 Bulldogs (15-6) to a second consecutive win and a 5-3 record in the conference.
“Every league game is a possession-by-possession battle,” Holtmann said. “If you look back at all the games, with Villanova (University) being the exception because we couldn’t quite cut it to a two-possession game, all of them have been relatively close.”
“And that is how I would expect the rest of them to go, possession by possession,” Holtmann said.
The win over Seton Hall helped move Butler back into the AP Top 25 Poll for the first time since losing to Indiana University on Dec. 20.
The Bulldogs are not ranked in the USA Today Coaches Poll, but received 70 votes.
Holtmann’s Bulldogs are now resting up for the season’s first matchup with Marquette University Saturday at 2 p.m. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The game will be televised on Fox Sports Net.
The Golden Eagles are 10-9 on the season with a 2-5 Big East record. Marquette, led by first-year coach Steve Wojciechowski, is on a three-game losing skid and has dropped four of its last five.
Marquette hosts Seton Hall tonight, also the first meeting between those two teams.
The Golden Eagles are coming off an overtime loss against Georgetown University in Milwaukee last Saturday heading into tonight’s matchup. They traded buckets with the Hoyas down the stretch and senior guard Matt Carlino hit a jump shot with one second to go in regulation.
The Hoyas went on to outscore the Golden Eagles 14-4 in the extra period.
Carlino and freshman guard Duane Wilson had a game-high 26 points apiece against the Hoyas. Carlino, a transfer from Brigham Young University, leads the Golden Eagles with 14.6 points per game.
HOT AND COLD
All season Butler has shown flashes of great basketball, but it has also hit some rough stretches. Butler is forming a reputation of getting big leads, only to let teams back in, yet again leading to close games and popped lids on the Tums.
Take Creighton, for example. Butler held a 57-48 lead with 5:36 to go in the game last Wednesday, with momentum building. The Bluejays went on an 11-0 run to take the lead with 1:34 to go.
The Bulldogs were able to pull it out, but not without getting a scare.
In a 61-59 loss at Georgetown on Jan. 17, the Bulldogs held a 29-17 lead late in the first half before the Hoyas went on a 10-4 run to close the gap and give them momentum heading into the second half.
On Jan. 13 in the first meeting against Seton Hall, Butler had an eight-point lead with under 4:00 to play, but the Pirates too went on a run, sending the game to overtime before Butler prevailed 79-75.
Holtmann said he does not look at the trend of losing leads as a bad thing but rather praises the team for getting those leads, because there really isn’t a lot of separation in Big East games.
“We do a lot of good things to get a good lead, and that is the tone a lot of the games take,” Holtmann said. “The other team responds when they get hit in the mouth, and we have to respond ourselves and hit them in the mouth.”
MARQUETTE ON THE CUSP
Holtmann said Marquette has a lot of talent, which concerns him more than the Bulldogs’ trend of blowing leads this season.
One of the more talented Golden Eagles is Indiana transfer Luke Fischer.
The 6-foot-11 Fischer is averaging 10.5 points per game since becoming eligible in December. He sat out the first part of the season, as part of the requisite full calendar year after transferring from Indiana University midseason.
Marquette’s two conference wins both came at home – against Creighton 53-52, and Providence 75-60.
The Golden Eagles are 8-3 at the BMO Harris Bradley Center, with a 2-1 mark there in Big East games.
Marquette laid claim to early season victories over Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Tennessee – a team that beat Butler — and Arizona State University, which appeared to be a potential surprise team in the Big East before tapering off when the Big East schedule hit.
The Golden Eagles went 0-3 against teams from the Big Ten — a blowout loss against Ohio State University, an 11-point loss that seemed closer than it was against Michigan State University and a surprising 49-38 showing against then undefeated rival University of Wisconsin.
Aside from the Georgetown game, the four other conference games the Golden Eagles have lost are by a combined 16 points.
Holtmann said he could easily see the Golden Eagles becoming a surprise team in the second half of the conference schedule.
“They are very capable of making a second half run,” he said. “They have great inside-out balance, and they cause teams a lot of problems.”
Saturday’s matchup in Milwaukee may call for more Tums for Holtmann and Bulldog fans everywhere, as both teams have been struggling from the free throw line this season.
The Bulldogs are ninth in the Big East at 65.9 percent and Marquette are eighth at 68.7 percent.
Butler fans were reminded of that Sunday when the Bulldogs went 16-for-31 at the stripe against the Pirates. They were 4-for-13 in the first half. Luckily, Butler was able to pull away from Seton Hall to get to the point where the free throws didn’t put as much weight on them.