AUSTIN MILLER | ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
With the coming of March, so too has the “madness” for the Butler women’s basketball team, who finished the regular season last weekend in strange fashion at Hinkle Fieldhouse, and now look to the Big East tournament as their last hope of an NCAA Tournament bid.
The Bulldogs (14-15 overall, 10-8 Big East) entered the weekend tied for third-place in the conference standings with a pair of opportunities to improve their tournament seed in games against teams also at the top of the standings.
The first saw Butler muster just 49 points in a loss to St. John’s at home leaving them with just one more opportunity to move up. And heading into the final minute against No. 23 Seton Hall, it appeared the Bulldogs would be able to do so.
Leading 76-67 after a layup from Sydney Buck with 1:07 remaining, Butler was outscored 18-0 in the final minute to fall 85-76 to the Pirates, who clinched a share of the Big East regular season championship with the come-from-behind win.
Only making matters worse, senior forward Ijeoma Uchendu was ejected from the game during the final minute after receiving a flagrant two foul and ejection. The school announced Monday that she would be suspended from the first game of the Big East tournament.
“On behalf of Butler women’s basketball, I sincerely apologize to Chizoba Ekedigwe and the Seton Hall women’s basketball team,” Head Coach Kurt Godlevske said in a press release.
“IJ’s actions are not something we will tolerate. I hold our women’s basketball players to a high standard and will continue to do so in the future. I don’t believe IJ is a malicious person, but poor sportsmanship is something we will not condone in our program. IJ has reached out to Chizoba and apologized personally. We both are sincerely apologetic.”
Uchendu is averaging 14.6 points (second on the team) and 10.3 rebounds (first on the team) per game this season, while playing 32.4 minutes per contest. She was the only player in the Big East to average a double-double per game this season, and was named to the All-Big East First Team on Tuesday.
The first test of the Big East tournament will be No. 3 seed Villanova, with whom the Bulldogs split a pair of contests in the regular season. The Wildcats finished the year with two victories at home, ending at 18-12 overall, 12-6 in the Big East conference.
The loss of Uchendu may take away an advantage for the Bulldogs, who outscored Villanova 40-12 in points in the paint during the Butler victory at Hinkle Fieldhouse earlier this season.
It will take three consecutive victories and a championship at the Big East tournament in Chicago in order for the Bulldogs to continue their season deeper into March. The journey begins with Villanova, but the Bulldogs are hoping that it doesn’t end there, too.
Three players honored
Uchendu, sophomore Loryn Goodwin, and freshman Sydney Buck all received Big East honors Tuesday.
Uchendu was named to the first team all-Big East. Her 14.6 points per game ranked 10th in the Big East, while her 10.3 rebounds per game were good enough for second in the conference.
Goodwin received all-Big East Honorable Mention. She was eighth in the conference with 10.8 PPG and 12th in the conference with 6.3 RPG.
Buck was named to the Big East All-Freshman team. She averaged 7.7 PPG and shot 32.8 percent from three-point range.