AUSTIN MILLER | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
Even though the month of February is less than a week old, it has already been more unkind to the Butler women’s basketball team than the entire month of January was.
After going 8-0 during January, the Bulldogs fell on the first day of the new month, losing 62-55 at Creighton University in the finale of what was a three-game road swing.
The loss dropped the Bulldogs to 12-10 overall and 8-3 in the Big East conference, a full game behind league-leading Seton Hall University.
However, Butler will have an opportunity to make up ground in the standings this weekend with home matchups Friday against DePaul University and Sunday against Marquette University.
Butler suffered a 92-76 loss to DePaul in its first conference game of the season Dec. 3 in Chicago. In that game, the Bulldogs led at halftime 47-41 before being outscored by 22 points in the second half.
The biggest problem for Butler in the first matchup was a lack of rebounding; the team allowed 26 second-chance points and were outrebounded 40-26. Butler also gave up an astounding 28 points to Brittany Hrynko, who went 7-8 from beyond the arc.
The Bulldogs, however, are a completely different team now than the one that fell that day in Chicago.
For starters, the Bulldogs had just one win on the season up to that point. They have won 11 times since then and have climbed above .500.
Along the same lines, Butler has ripped off six consecutive wins at Hinkle Fieldhouse in the time since.
“Our girls have been committed to getting better every day,” head coach Kurt Godlevske said, “and that was what has led to us playing better.”
The game holds much greater importance this time around, with DePaul being one of the two teams currently in front of the Bulldogs in the conference standings.
One curiosity surrounding the game is the strange 11:30 a.m. start time on a Friday.
Two days later the Bulldogs will host Marquette, a team they beat 76-67 during their impressive January streak in what was a highly-contested ball game, statistically speaking.
Loryn Goodwin and Ijeoma Uchendu were key cogs in that contest, just as they have been all season, each scoring more than 20 points.
The Golden Eagles (5-17, 1-10) are currently dead-last in the Big East standings and pose a threat if Butler overlooks them. A loss in a game the Bulldogs will be favored in could be deadly in regards to their chances at a Big East regular season title.
“In the Big East, you have to be the better team every night,” Uchendu said. “It takes good preparation and you have to be willing to do the little things.”
After this weekend, the Bulldogs will have just five more games remaining in the regular season before they head to Chicago for the Big East Tournament.
Butler has a perfect opportunity to improve its potential seed in the tournament, as it plays both of the teams currently in front of them (Seton Hall and DePaul) in the coming weeks. Butler currently sits one game back of first place in the standings.
Picked to finish 10th in the conference during the pre-season, the fact that the Bulldogs are even competing for the conference championship is surprising, but winning the title would be downright shocking.
“We came into the season just looking to get the best possible seed in conference tournament that we could,” Godlevske said. “Now we are in a position where we can really say that we are competing for a Big East championship.”